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The next time people start talking about New Zealand as favourites, Daniel Vettori might just want to tell them to shut up
May 26, 2008
Even with England 76 for 1 overnight there were positive vibes from the New Zealand camp that the pitch would offer them enough to force victory. However, the surface was far more placid and New Zealand's bowlers couldn't maintain their disciplines. "When you turn up on the fourth day and have high expectations of winning, to see the game dragged away from you it's a pretty disappointing feeling in our dressing room at the moment," Vettori said.
This isn't the first time in recent history that New Zealand put England on the ropes. It happened twice in the preceding series after the home side had taken a 1-0 lead in Hamilton. England were rocking on 136 for 5 in Wellington, before Paul Collingwood and Tim Ambrose turned the match around. Then, in Napier, New Zealand lost 9 for 65 against an inspired Ryan Sidebottom.
After their equally rapid demise of 7 for 29 at Old Trafford, it is becoming apparent that they don't know how to nail the opposition while they are down. The same charge has been laid at England's door, too, but they have just been able to find that little extra, in three out of the last four Tests, when it has mattered.
"Our third innings has let us down for a period of time, whether it's with bat or ball, and unfortunately in this game it was with the bat," Vettori said. "I'm not sure if you can put it down to being bad frontrunners. I think it's down to not assessing situations. We talk quite hard about staying calm and not worrying about outcomes, just realising the more runs we put on the board the more pressure goes on England. Unfortunately we got caught up in losing a couple of wickets and tried to hit our way out of it."
The disappointment was clear in Vettori's voice. This was a gilt-edged chance for an unfancied New Zealand team to cause a major upset. It was when that realisation dawned on them that the panic began to set it. Although 294 should have been a tough chase, England had already received a vital boost by rolling the visitors for such a small total second time around.
"You always lose a little bit of momentum when your batting folds the way it did," Vettori said. "To be bowled out for 114 hurts, but when we set out we thought with 294, if we could get through their top three or four, we knew there were some guys who hadn't had runs in a while, and a tail we were confident of getting out. You sit back and think you can do it. But a couple of their guys stepped up and played really well."
Vettori claimed 5 for 66 in the first innings, ripping and fizzing the ball throughout his spell. However, there was far less joy for him second time around after England's use of the heavy roller, while Vettori also didn't seem to have quite the same spark. The captain knew New Zealand's chances of success rested on his shoulders. "Yesterday's conditions were almost perfect for bowling spin, it had sharp turn," he said. "Today only towards the end of the second session did it start to liven up a bit. I think we have all acknowledged that was down to the heavy roller and England's assessment of conditions. So you have to give Michael Vaughan credit for that.
"I think we got a little carried away with the fact that the wicket was doing as much so we went searching. That's not our strength, which is to bowl maidens, build up pressure and see what happens. We perhaps got a little frustrated that the wicket wasn't doing as much today."
New Zealand weren't helped by two untimely injuries during the match, the first sending Daniel Flynn off to hospital after a nasty blow in his mouth from James Anderson, and the second when Jacob Oram hurt his shoulder before the third day's play. The batting order was altered for the second innings, but Vettori refused to make excuses. "It's all on us, not the injuries."
Vettori now faces the task of motivating his players ahead of the final Test at Trent Bridge. They have a warm-up match against Northamptonshire first, and Vettori is grateful there is time to regroup. "I think if we rolled around into a Test three days later there would be some guys who are still reeling from this loss," he said. "Hopefully that game will be a chance to get a few things out of the system and work on a few things. Then we can come to Trent Bridge and hopefully square the series. We still know that if we square the series it's been a good result for us."
For the first half of this match New Zealand were in control, which is what makes the final outcome even harder to accept. Ross Taylor's 154 was a thrilling innings and the captain himself showed what a craftsman he is with the ball. However, those thoughts were a long way from Vettori's mind as he was left pondering what might have been. "We lost a game we should have won. Taylor was magnificent and the way Iain O'Brien bowled into the wind stood out, but I don't think they matter to anyone at the moment."
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