One of the great things about Test cricket is how it punishes lack of judgement and rewards bravery.
Tom Latham, in his brilliant 105-run contribution, had flirted with danger all slog long with some very dubious leaves right throughout Friday. Come Saturday, he was bowled out early, attempting to leave again. It really, honestly, didn’t look great.
But if you’re brave, even in the most nerve-wracking of situations, the reward tends to be great. Scores are one thing but recognition, perhaps even discovery, is the thing Daryl Mitchell should be most proud of when he reflects on his first bat in Test cricket.
But more on that later. We need to talk about England, because something is amiss.
Ben Stokes refused to take it easy with heavy strapping on the left knee, but perhaps this was the greatest sign of England’s attitude early on day two. The intensity was up, a bit of “consequence be damned” about the approach.
The tour to South Africa is on the horizon and England wants Stokes playing in the Republic, but Stokes only cares about the here and now, with full gas applied toward the present task. Bumble seemed concerned in the commentary box, saying that Stokes would play on even with injury and was liable to fall over at any second.
But perhaps the Kiwi-turned-British ginger was also testing the severity of the case when he slammed the left leg down and twisted in delivery.
Noticeably, England were aggressive and bowled like they were looking for wickets. But criticism in the press, particularly the English press, often isn’t simply unfounded and some of the leadership when it came to bowling with the new ball just prior to food has to be questioned.
For all the energy and aggression at mornings beginning, the feeling in the field was so relaxed, almost lethargic as BJ and Daryl batted New Zealand out of trouble. In the slip cordon, Joe Root was busy with his arms and voice, but there was little effort or interest from anyone else.
By the time yummy chocolate mousse was served at lunch’s desert, England were nearing 300-straight overs in the field. Was that a reason for the drop in anything close to the standard required?
It got somewhat boring to start the afternoon, just 24-runs coming off the bat in the first hour since tables.
However, it did give ample opportunity to take a look around the Willows lounge, and that’s where you realise that the English tourists have some immense commitment to their sports, and also some very deep pockets. Sitting next to me, a couple from the UK who brought a Northern Districts Cricket membership instead of general tickets, for the experience of sitting in comfort and getting the best view of the action.
These aren’t the Barmy Army type, they don’t sit out and roast in the sun for hours on end, play their trumpets and sign songs (though at points during the mundane, you almost wish they did).
But like the Barmy Army, they are simply some of the nicest people you’d ever hope to meet.
Daryl was past the half-century mark on debut and was already having his name mentioned as a worthy batter further up the order. No doubt securing his spot for the tour to Australia, experience isn’t lacking for Mitchell after a long tenure at domestic level. He’d reach 73 before falling in the deep, going after a short ball with confidence that had only increased throughout his innings.
Coupled with Watling, their partnership had pushed New Zealand into a position where the lower end smackers could freely go after the useful extras on offer. New Zealand would be bowled out for 375, but day two was all about how Mitchell handled himself at the crease with all eyes on him as he made his first dig.
Speaking after the day, Mitchell said his noticeably active style of batting out in the middle was due
“I’ve played a certain way to try and get to this point to play for New Zealand. I’d be silly to try and change that, and at the end of the day the job is to try and score runs”, Mitchell said.
Of course, sporting talent is in Daryl’s blood as he’s the son of former All Blacks coach and England Rugby World Cup finalist John Mitchell. But if he plays anything close to how he played today over the course of his cricket career at this level, we won’t be talking about him for what that last name represents.
England struggled to start their reply, and it could’ve been worse had Taylor and Ravel held onto their catches. Ending day two in slight trouble at 39/2, perhaps now is the moment for England’s captain Joe Root to stand up and show his worth.
And finally, the security guard who was plonkered on the top of the head appears to be A okay following a quick trip St. John.
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