What a difference a week makes. This time last week the nation was in full-on teeth gnashing mode. Why was the New Zealand cricket team incapable of winning a test match in England? And look at those English; they know how to play the game. This attacking brand was crazy; it will never win you a test match.
.As it turned out, the strategy remained the same; while batting anyway, it was just the execution was better.
New Zealand batted for only 163 overs in the match; well under two days’ play. They knew they had to win to square the series, and they knew there would be rain. The margin of 199 runs was second only in terms of runs in New Zealand test history. They have won four of their last five tests; 9 out of 14.
And in contrast to tests since 2004 in England they actually trailed the match early before finishing strongly. It was not until Day 3 that they got their noses ahead, and even then at 141/4 in the second innings it looked as if another chance might go begging. But the approach did not change, and it final got to the opposition.
The stat floating around about how eight different batsmen hitting sixes in the second innings was a world record was a bit of a corner-case stat so popular in cricket; but it did epitomise the team effort nature of the win. Another stat is that Kane Williamson scored only six runs across both innings. He did chip in with the ball though.
Prior to the test the talk was about the balance of the side. Would Corey Anderson be replaced by Bracewell or Rutherford. Instead, with Watling’s lingering injury the four-pronged wicket keeper option was adopted.
Watling was superb in this series, especially when you consider he was invalided out of his primary function an hour into the Lord’s test. He proved how he is at his best at numbers 6 and 7, where he has been a huge feature over the last two years. Those calling for him to open do not really understand the Peter’s Principle.
And then there was Mark Craig. Vilified after Lord’s; with Geoff Boycott leading the charge he put in a true all-round performance here. The last four players to score 40+ and take 2+ wickets in both innings in Test v England? Garry Sobers, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and… Mark Craig.
There was a lot of talk last week about how England won at Lord’s not because they were the better side, but because they played smarter; and there was an element of truth in that. Here it was the other way around. There was no better example of that than the telegraphed attempts to bounce out the New Zealand tail. This tactic was employed in both innings, and both times it failed.
The New Zealand tail (below Craig) is vulnerable but if you bowl short just over medium pace around the wicket then there are some players who can hit it a long way. What made it even crazier was that this tactic was employed twice first thing in the morning, and with a new ball.
And Root’s claim of coming out “all guns blazing” going into the final day had a hint of the Bumble Lloyd’s “We flipping murdered them” quote from the 1990s. This was followed by two dismissals on the final day from batsmen shouldering arms.
These have been two very good and fluctuating test matches with a lot of quality cricket and the right amount of drama. Now onto that all important third test.