Really really pathetic.
Forget them drawing the match and thus the series, because Trent Boult and Tim Southee have put New Zealand into position to secure a memorable victory. Their lines were tighter than England’s had been, forcing the batsmen to try and use their bats – the emphasis on try in the case of the three LBWs within the first hour. They also managed to get the ball swinging enough to trouble the opposition; England as a consequence were forced into their shells throughout the morning session.
A huge amount of credit has to go to the captain as well, whose field placings (including at one time a Bothamesque five slips!) were innovative and interesting.
After they rattled through the tail straight after tea, Brendon McCullum opted to bat again. Time will tell whether this was the correct decision (we’re split 50:50, but probably the final outcome would be the same either way), but when their first three wickets fell for eight runs, it began to look slightly wrong – however their lead is substantial and really ought to be made safe well before tea tomorrow.
Did we mention that it was pathetic?
Even before the trio of LBWs, Ian Bell had almost run himself out going for two runs to the ridiculously short boundary at fine leg. For some reason, England in the morning session just didn’t seem to grasp that this was an actual proper international match, a series-deciding one at that. Although Jonny Bairstow can perhaps be excused falling cheaply having not had any match practice, Bell showed no responsibility in his innings and Nick Compton’s addition of one run to his overnight score suggested he wasn’t entirely sure what to do against some fine bowling. Matt Prior and Joe Root clung on until lunch – showing no desire to try and disperse the close fielders and making Bruce Martin look far better than he actually is.
Admittedly Prior played rather well in the afternoon session, actually realising that England needed to score runs and not just bat for hours – in the preceding session the team just looked like they were hanging on for a draw despite more than half the match remaining. However his dismissal came at the worst possible time – one over before the new ball (it is telling that the score was just 173 at the time). Then, just to top it all off nicely like an undigested sweetcorn kernel proudly atop a large turd, Stuart Broad smashed three boundaries and got out, something that even the tired and emotional 51allout bunker predicted. Ultimately, Prior and to some extent Joe Root aside, England batted naively and without the responsibility that comes automatically with being an international player and should come even more so when the team are under pressure and even even more so when, as in the case of Bell and Broad, you’ve got the talent, experience and the record to suggest you can actually play a bit.
(To be fair, the bowling late in the day was impressive and at 8/3 there may have been a smidgeon of hope that something could be rescued from the game).
Who knows? If England are to salvage anything from this predicament, they need to restrict the New Zealand lead. Perhaps the megacollapse that we’ve been predicting all series will finally occur – but even if it does, England will need to bat a hell of a lot better than they did last night if they are to save the game. We can sense Bob Willis is getting ready to steam in on his 43-pace run-up to unleash a verbal bouncer of wrath – which will be some compensation indeed for this rubbish, pathetic, day.