England require another 391 runs to win with six second innings wickets in hand
England are going to lose this series, and they’re going to lose it to a side that has completely outplayed them for the vast majority of the past month. A calamitous fourth day, in which New Zealand humiliated them with both bat and ball, neatly encapsulated the entire contest. For the most part this tour has shown up the very worst side of England; the stroppy, childish, over-rated one which seems to turn up more often than not nowadays. A lot has been said about Alastair Cook’s decision at the toss, but on day four New Zealand smashed 206 in 34 overs before England collapsed in slow-motion to 90/4 in 52. Indeed, England’s combined match total so far is 294/14 from more than 140 overs. That does not suggest a dead pitch. Everyone, including the bowlers themselves, have queued up to hammer the batsmen for England’s failings in the past year, it’s time for some fronting up.
New Zealand have good batsmen but going into this series their top order was extremely fragile and had been bowled out for 45 just weeks before. Peter Fulton had a Test match average of 20, Hamish Rutherford had not played a single Test and Ross Taylor had spent the last couple of months in exile. England have made them look like a united, all star line-up of legends and the bowling attack, along with their coach, must shoulder the blame. Even shorn of their senior spinner, there is no excuse for the cacophony of idiotic plans which have epitomised their efforts and which were once again on show as Fulton launched them all over the island before lunch on the fourth day. Jimmy Anderson’s petulant timewasting as he tried, successfully, to make sure his was the last over before the break summed up a pitiful, embarrassing performance as much as his attempts to halt the haemorrhage of runs by bowling at the point fielder had in the previous over.
The batting was just as bad, although there are at least some mitigating circumstances; a rampant Kiwi attack, three very inexperienced batsmen in the top six and a giant Pietersen-shaped hole in the middle. The first innings go slow was far more inexplicable than the second, although they could’ve at least had the decency to chuck wickets away to proper bowlers. Heroic salvation looks a very long shot from here; not least because England seem to have forgotten that the main object of the game is to score runs. With no pressure on the bowlers and an attacking captain (whose importance to this success should be highlighted; would Ross Taylor have gone for the jugular in the same way?) the batsmen have been just waiting to get out. The body language of the side on day four was that of one already beaten, tomorrow they should get the flattening they deserve.