Ah; test cricket. Where you can dominate the majority of a test match yet still get comfortably beaten. Batting out 76 overs on a cloudy London day was always going to be a struggle, and the ghosts of 2004 and Old Trafford 2008 popped up from behind the bricks. Those ghosts are now proper members of the touring team, and will be sitting at the back of the bus.
There is something beautifully unique with cricket in England. This test even had people sitting in deck chairs clearing up champagne corks. The match itself was not a roller-coaster as described in some quarters. In reality it was a surprisingly fast paced trip through the rolling hills of the English countryside. And it a very good test match; delivering the kind of suspense that only test cricket can.
New Zealand was in mild ascendancy for the majority of the first four days. England was 30/4 after an hour. New Zealand would then pass England’s first innings total only three down, and England was still 60 runs in arrears when it lost its third second innings wicket. In each case New Zealand was approaching a position of dominance without quite getting there. Still, those were positions from which you should not lose a test.
England offered a lot more flair than widely anticipated. Twice they would score 350+ in a day, and both times they were coming from behind.
There has been a narrative in the media about how disadvantaged the New Zealand team was because of the IPL. Boult and in particular Southee were taken to late on days one and four, but that may have as much to do with the overhead conditions as any lack of fitness. They were still bowling over 20 overs a day. What accentuated this was the fact that England targeted Craig, and that Anderson is not match fir for bowling. Wagner was badly missed.
What makes this loss harder to take is that New Zealand did actually play some very good test cricket over the weekend. The bowling during the first hour of each day was very good, and Henry looked at home at this level. An opening partnership of nearly 150 is a rare thing of beauty when it comes to New Zealand. Williamson obviously. And the guts shown by both Latham and Watling in the context of the latter’s injury was impressive.
But in the end the class of Cook, the irritating effectiveness of Root, Christchurch born Stokes’s all-round impact and England’s all round resilience proved too much.
There need to be improvements if New Zealand is to level the series at Headingly; particularly on Monday and Tuesday. The trend of falling away from Day Four in England is officially a thing.
On the bright side, the person who would have hated that result the most was Kevin Pietersen