Napier Nailbiter

21 02 2008

After the nail biting tie in Napier, between England and New Zealand, Daniel Vettori felt, probably quite rightly, that after the superb batting of his top order, in particular Jamie How, it was a game New Zealand should have won comfortably. By contrast Paul Collingwood seemed relatively relieved, talking up all the positives of how well they bowled in those last six overs. For me that belies an inherent attitude problem in the England camp.

Far from being satisfied with snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat (which I’ll grant you does show character), the England management should be baffled as to how they failed to a win a game they scored 340 in. Of course New Zealand have chased down big totals at home before, that must not be forgotten, but before we talk up their 3-0 destruction of Australia last time there’s something that needs to be remembered.

Australia went there without Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting, Gilchrist or Michael Clarke. That’s three key fielders, one of which being the Wicketkeeper, both captain and vice captain and your premier strike bowler all missing. It’s always going to be hard to defend totals with an inexperienced captain, slightly weakened bowling and much weakened fielding. Not to mention the fact that with Ponting, Gilchrist and Clarke there’s every chance Australia would’ve racked up even bigger totals (and possibly defended them).

England have no such excuses. One can easily make the case that this is England’s first choice team, due to the fact that Flintoff spends more time injured than playing. Even if one considers him, that’s one player missing from what can be considered England’s strongest one day side. In the absence of Freddie, Dimi Mascarenhas has assumed the mantle of England’s big hitting all-rounder. He’s not as good but does a decent job.

So how is it that arguably England’s cleanest hitter of a ball, doesn’t get a knock when you’ve got such a good platform? With six overs to go Owais Shah comes in. Not to belittle Shah’s contributions in this One Day side, particularly saving games when the early fall of wickets has put England in hot water, but he’s a stroke maker whose game is based on finding the gaps. His game is perfectly suited to batting in the middle overs, rebuilding the innings. He can hit a big ball but it’s usually once he’s settled.

What the hell was he doing there with 36 balls to go? I think he faced seven deliveries and scored only four runs. I can tell you for certain Dimi would have either gotten out much quicker, or made every delivery count. The way he’s been hitting the ball since he arrived in New Zealand there’s every possibility he’d have scored twenty or thirty runs in quick time, possibly even off the same number of deliveries as Shah faced.

One good Mascarenhas over can take the game away from the opposition. Three or four big hits and the game could be yours. Had Dimi contributed an extra thirty runs to the cause that would have put an entirely different complexion on the game. Psychologically chasing over 350 is tough, and a score around 370 would have been almost unassailable. When you look at the batting collapse that occurred, with an extra twenty runs on the board New Zealand would have been dead and buried.

Fulton and Styris have both been in poor form with the bat, with many arguing that they shouldn’t even be playing, so it’s not as if the collapse can come as a great surprise to anyone, not even Daniel Vettori. For England to talk about positives in a match that they should have had sewn up is quite disgraceful. Instead of going into the last match with a chance to win the series they can now, at best, draw. At 158-2 you’d bank on getting above 350, and those extra runs could have won the match for England.



One response

24 02 2008
Yes, I Know It’s Not Morning! « Textual Relations

[…] knew after the Napier Nailbiter that England would live to regret failing to win. I have criticised England’s selection […]

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