Yes, I Know It’s Not Morning!

24 02 2008

704205.jpgApologies, first, for the late post today, I know how much your morning feels empty without me. Thanks to a problem with my router I was suffering very intermittent internet connectivity this morning making it impossible to stay on the WordPress site long enough to write an entry.

Moving on to the post you’ve been awaiting eagerly all day. Guess what? It’s the third cricket post in a week! I bet you love me right now.

I knew after the Napier Nailbiter that England would live to regret failing to win. I have criticised England’s selection policy already and they persevered with the same selection policies for the final match, so a defeat was fully expected.

Although they may feel they were somewhat vindicated by Luke Wright’s batting (not to mention Dimi’s late surge with the bat), they did not score enough runs to realistically defend with only three strike bowlers. Yet again the opening partnership failed, and after a middle order collapse, England managed just 242 runs. On a small ground with the Kiwi big guns that was always going to be a tough ask but at 128 for five it could have been even less, so England will be happy with the fightback from the tail.

What they won’t be so pleased with is the performance of the bowlers, with every one of them pitching the ball far too short. James Anderson was the main culprit but they were all guilty. They made the same mistake in Napier, bowling the wrong lines and wrong lengths, and not even varying the pace. Spin is not the only variation a team needs to have and England’s pacemen need to develop genuine cutters and slower balls.

Worse yet was the fielding, where three catches were dropped. Although two of them were half chances, Stuart Broad ‘s drop was the sort he should be expected to hold, wind or not. Out of three to not take any was particularly bad. Even when the catches are difficult, at the highest level you’ve got to take those sorts of chances. If the players didn’t know that before the game they will do now, after the Kiwi wicket-keeper made them pay with some huge hits and a score of 77 off just 43 balls. Quite amazing.

England have every right to be aggrieved with a couple of umpiring issues. There were a couple of dubious lbw decisions in favour of New Zealand’s batsmen that looked out, but you can always accept an lbw decision can go either way. A perfect example of this was when I thought James Anderson had Jesse Ryder plumb but the ball pitched just on the line of leg stump. Although I thought it pitched in line (and should therefore be out) I can understand why Billy Bowden gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

Less understandable was not giving Daniel Vettori out when he clearly got an edge to the keeper. It was clear on the first viewing that he’d edged it. The noise was unambiguously bat onto ball, the ball even visibly deviated off the edge, there was just no doubt about it. I don’t blame Vettori for standing there, but clearly when Vettori looked back to see if the catch was taken, the umpire should realise that he’s edged it.

However the real area for complaint will be the decision not to come out and bowl the remaining four overs after the rain. The argument was that according to Duckworth/Lewis, the Black Caps had already passed the par score. Leaving aside the issue, then, that Vettori’s wicket would have affected the par score, I think what the umpires failed to consider is that although the Kiwis had more runs than they needed, the fall of further wickets would see this score adjusted downwards.

Not that I begrudge New Zealand their victory. They deserved it, they were the better side, not only in this match but in the entire series. After being hammered in the Twenty 20 matches they came back fighting and were fired up. There were some exceptional performances, particularly with the bat, where I think McCullum had an awesome series. It was almost as if the captaincy during the Twenty 20s, in the absence of Vettori, had held him back but now he was being “unleashed” on England’s bowlers.

Jesse Ryder had a good start to his international career, with bat and ball. Captain Daniel Vettori managed figures in Christchurch of 10 overs, 2 for 28, an economy rate of under three in a one day game on a wicket that wasn’t assisting him at all. There is simply no arguing with the facts; New Zealand deserved to win the series.

For me, though, the series was won and lost in Napier. After England’s win in Auckland I thought they needed to keep their winning momentum going and win the match in Napier. Instead the tie gave momentum back to New Zealand. A good result there would have put pressure squarely back on New Zealand. The worry for England now has to be that the Kiwis will take the momentum from this into the Test Match series.


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