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New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Hamilton, 2nd day
David Lloyd: Pitch dead as a doornail
March 6, 2008
New Zealand posted an imposing total, and to the credit of England they finished the day on a promising note
 
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Ross Taylor is quickly shaking off his one-day tag and, David Lloyd says, is a fine young player © Getty Images
 
Andrew Miller: The day was dominated by the bat, Ross Taylor in particular who scored his maiden Test century and Daniel Vettori with 88. By the close, England were fighting back pretty well. But, David, they would probably be regretting conceding more runs than they hope for in the first innings.

David Lloyd: I think it was a heart breaking pitch and it's going to continue to be so. It is just one of those pitches on which you can't see bowlers making any inroads. You've got to bend your back for little or no reward. England toiled this morning, looking at yesterday's six wickets it may have been a false reflection, because it was so difficult today. In the commentary box we saw it as ordinary conventional attack with no bit of magic - either a wrist spinner or an unorthodox spinner like Harbhajan [Singh] or [Muttiah] Muralitharan. It was just ordinary stuff on a pitch that was unforgiving. England tried, Michael Vaughan tried all sorts of things, he brought Kevin Pieterson on and in fact he got that wicket of Ross Taylor. I can't see this as anything but a draw, unless something absolutely dramatic happens to this pitch.

I just reflect on the one-day pitch, which was excellent - it had pace, it had bounce, and it is right next to this strip. But, he has taken all the grass off the grounds man, and he has ensured that there is absolutely no pace; it's as dead as a doornail.

AM: Nonetheless, you can't take anything away from Ross Taylor effort, it was his maiden Test century and he is a man who has a reputation for being a one-day player - but he really knuckled down and made most of the opportunities today.

DL: Quiet unfair, he is 23 years old and in fact he will turn 24 on Saturday, so he has got an early present. I think he played particularly well, and for a young player like that, let's not forget he was denounced. It is ridiculous to criticise him for having a top score of 17, he is young and he worked it out to how to play here. And, I think that's what you've got to do here, chat it out with Martin Crowe on how do you play out here. He [Crowe] said, you work it out for 45 minutes as to how to play, assess the bounce an the pace, and the lack of the pace and if you get that then they should never ever get you out. So, Ross Taylor did all that assessment and he played very well. As a young kid you get rid of the one-day tag and just become an international player.

AM: At 282 for 6, England were in decent position but then Daniel Vettori is No. 8 New Zealand and he is not a man who gives his wicket away lightly.

DL: I think the stats are his average in the last 32 Tests is 42, and it his highest average for anybody batting at No. 8. He looks a very well organized player and he has worked really hard at his game over the years. I remember Vettori, his first game back in 1997. So he has developed his batting side of his game and his bowling will take care of itself. And coming at eight, coming in behind [Brendon] McCullum, and you look at that card, it is solid 470 with Nos 7 and 8 scoring half centuries. I wonder whether England can match that if they get that far down.

AM: Well, England's No. 8 presumably will be Ryan Sidebottom, he bowled particularly well on this dead pitch, and at last he is getting some luck going his way. He took four wickets today, and he has had loads of dropped catches in the last few Tests but they stuck this time.

DL: I think it is fitting that he finished up with four wickets, he was the best bowler and he put the most effort. I think if you look and analyse England's attack, Sidebottom has been playing one-day cricket, so he has got some rhythm, he has got some stamina and he has got some confidence by being at the crease in one-day cricket. The other two, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard have to really pull their socks up. England selectors, they have got a new set of selectors, they will be looking very very carefully at Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard - they have been way below power, way below pace and they looked unbelievably stiff first things this morning. That is just telling you, Sidebottom is the one who is in cricket and these two have been out of cricket, and this is a Test match.

AM: Harmison, we have spoken about him to death, but Hoggard is a different kettle of fish entirely. He has had a tough year, he has been injured a great deal, but presumably he has got quite a lot of credit in the bank from the England selectors after his performance over the previous years.

DL: Well, listening to Martin Crowe, who is very bullish and I think they say it how it is here in New Zealand. He would leave them both out immediately, and get some new lads in, get some younger players in. I am absolutely certain that England will stick with the pair of them and in particular Mathew Hoggard, as you say he has got a lot there in the bank - 248 Test match wickets and he is closing in on Brian Statham's 252 wickets. But they looked stiff and that would be infuriating to me. This is a Test match and they are clearly not ready to play a Test match. Maybe, modern day and they would say 'Test match two and three and just watch us go'. Well, I will be interested to see if they do go - 31 years of age Mathew Hoggard and 29 years of age Steve Harmison, they should be absolutely in their prime.

AM: It was an interesting comparison when Chris Martin came into bowl, he was clocking at about 86 miles per hour, which was about six miles quicker than Harmison. Does that put in perspective for England?

DL: Yes, that does exactly that. But also the two different styles of attack. The thought from England to see the pitch is slow and open the bowling with swing, potential swing, to pitch it up and let's see if it swings. New Zealand looked at it totally differently, Kyle Mills and Chris Martin are very tall and they tried to hit the pitch hard and they bent their back. Okay, this is a slow pitch but let's see what we can get out of it with the new ball and in effect they couldn't get anything out of it, absolutely nothing. England openers had no real alarms, a couple of appeals, but nothing really going for New Zealand except for the effort that they were putting in.

The pair of them, [Alastair] Cook and [Michael] Vaughan got over that 45 minutes, got over the new ball, got used to the pace and bounce and it is going to be a long haul for New Zealand bowlers as it was for the England bowlers.

AM: Well, Cook and Vaughan have been given the chance to build on the partnership that they started in Sri Lanka, and it is looking promising so far.

DL: Yes it is. Andrew Strauss has come back into the team, Strauss is an opener and he will freely tell anybody that he is a stranger at No. 3. But, he has got to comeback into the team somewhere, so he comes in at three and he should give it a go. The opening pair looked fine, the experience of Vaughan, who has looked a class player again and I am sure he is looking for a big innings, certainly in this Test match. Young Cook continues to learn, he learnt today against Chris Martin, who sets off round the wicket at him and they have seen something that they think can get him out. Something like Chaminda Vaas, left-arm over, and they have gone round the wicket with a right armer. But he [Cook] has come through all that.

Again, I think, after fielding for about 139 overs for the pair of them to come and strap the pads on to bat, I think they have done pretty well. But turgid sort of day, I would think, for the spectators because this pitch is going to beat everybody.

AM: So there you have it, a draw is on the cards but there are still three days to go. You've been listening to David Lloyd on Cricinfo Talk

Comments: 8 
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Posted by Fellinipip on (March 6, 2008, 19:46 GMT)

Steve Harmison no longer has what is required to bowl at Test Match level. Yes it's not a friendly pitch for fast bowlers, but he has really let himself down in this first test with a poor attitude and complete lack of motivation. It is particularly disappointing that Harmison looks as if he doesn't want to be in New Zealand at all. This is an insult to both Stuart Broad and James Anderson who are both sitting out this Test and would have bowled with boundless enthusiasm. It is also an insult to the rest of Harmison's team-mates, particularly Ryan Sidebottom who has shown what can be achieved by keeping your head held high and bowling with application, desire and agression at all times. It's a sad situation but I'm afraid Steve Harmison has been given too many chances before, it's about time England made the brave decision of dropping him for good and giving a younger bowler a chance to prove himself.

Posted by thenoostar on (March 6, 2008, 19:26 GMT)

When watching Harmison, he does seem out of sorts. In form, it is fair to mention he and Curtly Ambrose in the same breath. While Ambrose was more accurate, Harmison even lacking rhythm still bowls at the same pace as Ambrose when he was in New Zealand in 94/95. A couple of technical adjustments will have him back to the outstanding bowler he was during the Ashes 0f 2005.

Posted by Adrian-alda-psychses on (March 6, 2008, 14:34 GMT)

Unfortunately I have to agree with the comments already posted. Harmy has the potential to be one of the greats, but right at this moment the impression one is left with is, he is not fit, not interested and not likely to improve! Stevo you need to run in, bowl fast and hit the deck, you maybe the only bowler in the either side who could get anything out of the surface, but at the moment KP has as many wickets as you in the series. Get yourself out in the nets while England try to keep wickets intact and work on bowling fast and causing chaos. It's called practice and hard work! Oh and stop training with Newcastle United, it's doing neither you or them any good!!

Posted by CaptainPedant on (March 6, 2008, 13:34 GMT)

Yeah, I'd mention Harmison and Ambrose in the same breath. It would be "Let's face it, Harmy's no Curtley and never will be". He's been the nearly man for years - frustrating to watch for an overweight middle-aged fan who wishes he'd ever had a tenth of Harmison's talent.

Posted by Vakbar on (March 6, 2008, 11:04 GMT)

Many have compared Harmison with Ambrose - he may have similar physical attributes, but he is not fit to be mentioned in the same breath. How anygenuine quick can come in and bowl at 80mph, with the total lack of passion he showed, is staggering - he clearly has no pride in wearing the England shirt - he only has to look at his great mate Flintoff to see what it means to play for England. I can guarantee that as a 12-hour-a-day office worker, i know more about conditioning training than Harmison. What exactly is his training regime? I think he needs to look at Brett Lee - the kind of conditioning training that he undergoes allows him to bowl at 150kph for 20 overs a day. It also takes heart - which Harmison clearly lacks. And this is not a knee-jerk reaction to a one-off performance. He has been like this for years now. So embarrasing has he become that Vaughan said that 4 wides and a leg bye in his first over of a tour match was "not bad by Harmison's standards". Unbelievable

Posted by Dipul on (March 6, 2008, 9:40 GMT)

I think Harmison needs more training. He is a very good bowler and can prove dangerous on his day, however, he need more consistency in his bowling. England side really misses Flintoff here as he is the one who always makes the difference in the side. England has an interesting match on their hands here. It will be great to see Andrew Strauss's performance as his innings will make difference in England's chase.

Posted by Ed270380 on (March 6, 2008, 9:00 GMT)

I can't believe that we're still playing Harmison! Time and time again he's showed us that he simply doesn't have the mental attributes to be an international quality bowler. Seeing him lolling in and releasing the ball at 79mph (which is slower than Hoggard!) was painful, especially as he doesn't seem to know where he's trying to bowl it! I'm a firm believer that his purple patch in 2004 was an exception rather than the rule. It's a real shame as he does have 90% of the attributes necessary to be truely world class he just doesn't know how to use them. It's time we dismissed Harmison onto the tried pile and concentrated on the new breed of English bowlers like Stuart Broad. He's young and hungry, already bowls at over 85mph, can bat and is dependable in the field.

Posted by Chalky2 on (March 6, 2008, 8:29 GMT)

Why do we persisit with Harmison? He's obviously not "up for it" and hasn't been for two years. His body language is totally wrong and his attitude must filter down through the rest of the team.

Pick Broad and stick with him, he's got the right attitude and obviously enjoys the game!

As for the furore about Anderson going to Auckland(by the CEO for Wellington), I agree with Athers,half the cricketers in the world come to the counties to hone their skills.

We'll never win at cricket or soccer until we restrict the overseas players in our teams. Maximum 1 player.

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