One of the great things about cricket, especially test cricket, is that it is often very subjective to say which side is winning a test at any given stage in a match. In most sports it’s up on he scoreboard and easy to understand; test cricket not so much.
This is particularly the case when the teams are evenly matched, and we all know these two teams are. So we are watching a test being played out where all sorts of people have all sorts of theories about who has the advantage, and the whole concept of a par score.
You know things are different when you see Colin de Grandhomme open up at the start of the day with a ball that’s 10 overs old.
And it almost paid dividends early with Pope adjudged leg before. Pope reviewed it and DRS showed it was missing leg and flying over. Predictive technology still has a lot doubters, and this was not its greatest moment. It may have been sliding down leg but side-on footage showed it was unlikely to have gone over.
For Stokes though it was all too easy. Perhaps too easy. After 40 minutes and 24 runs of looking completely in control he charged Southee and was expertly caught by Taylor at slip.
Taylor might have missed a couple of chances yesterday but the two he did catch were world class.
Then there was some smart bowling from Southee. Pope had been very leg side so he went wider and wider outside off and something had to give. Then Curran was trapped in front first ball, Archer didn’t last long as Boult got into the action and England had lost 4/18 and were 295/8.
What was to follow was one of those annoying partnerships where the senior batsman (Buttler) thought that he should be facing all the strike as the lesser batsman (Leach) was there for the taking. This seemed a bit strange in that Leach never looked in trouble.
So it meant an extended period of play where there were eight fieldsmen on the boundary collecting balls while the scoreboard stayed still.
He was dropped by Raval off a clearly livid Tim Southee before being grabbed by Santner in the following over. Broad then fell to the only full ball he got from Wagner and the total was 353.
353 is probably a par a par score that you can shoot, which seems right in encounters between these sides in 2019.
From England’s point of view there were two very good bowling changes. The first was to introduce Sam Curran after 6 overs when it was still seaming; he removed Latham with his third ball.
The second was bringing on Leach in the 15th over (Santner was introduced in the 71st over of England’s innings). England had done their homework on Raval and knew that he isn’t at his most comfortable against spin. A few lucky mishits later and he slogged it to midwicket.
Curran and Leach were not being talked up as threats before this test. That was Jofra Archer, and he was not the force people had been anticipating; Ross Taylor enjoying regularly pulling him in front of square. Late on he sent down a reminder of what he’s capable of; striking Henry Nicholls on the helmet
Pulling Ben Stokes in front of square proved to be his undoing though. Just as. New Zealand looked to be in a position to start winning he holed out. And when the crucial wicket of Williamson fell to one that really bit from Curran soon after the tourists could say they were winning.
While that is the case there is a long way to go from here, and there are a couple of battlers who will walk out tomorrow for New Zealand.