England v New Zealand 2008 / News

England v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day

Vettori rues lost opportunity

Will Luke at Trent Bridge

June 8, 2008

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New Zealand's dispiriting defeat at Old Trafford was cited by Daniel Vettori as the turning point of the series © Getty Images
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Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, may have some way to go before he can begin to emulate the astute leadership of his predecessor, Stephen Fleming. But after losing the third Test against England at Trent Bridge, along with the series, he demonstrated the same despondency about New Zealand's future at Test level that Fleming voiced for so many years.

The end was quick and painless, like a plaster being removed, and as Vettori licked his lesions, he admitted that England had dominated them ever since that fateful day at Old Trafford when New Zealand were blitzed by Monty Panesar.

"I don't want to take anything away from England," he said. "They've dominated since the third day at Old Trafford, they're deserved winners and they've thoroughly outplayed us from that point on, so we'd like to think the gap is smaller but we have to appreciate how well England played and they made the most of everything they did. Particularly their swing bowlers.

"It probably sums up the state of affairs we are in," he said. "We were able to compete for some of the time but unable to compete for a whole five days. If you look back to the last six Test matches, the only time we were able to do that was at Hamilton - which we won. Unfortunately every other time we haven't been able to keep up to the pace of England.

"I guess it's a lack of ability on our part, maybe a lack of fortitude as well. It's something we've got to find a way to do. But having said that we've still got a number of guys who have played under 10 Tests so it's hard to put any blame on them. It's more the experienced guys who need to stand up and take control of the situations."

England took just 63 minutes to take the final five New Zealand wickets - 5 for 35 in 40 clinical balls - with Ryan Sidebottom returning to somewhere near his best in picking up his fifth five-wicket haul. Only Jacob Oram resisted, clattering the unusually wayward Stuart Broad over midwicket for one of only two sixes in the match, and showing the sort of aggression and intent so lacking from New Zealand's top-order throughout this series. Indeed, Vettori laid the blame for their successive series defeats firmly at the feet of his more wizened charges.

"The experienced members have to step up at the crucial moments," he said. "We did at times, not at others. Brendon and mine's performances were decent and I'm reasonably happy with them, but when you've got a young team...you've got to take them along with you. You've got pockets of performances from some of the young guys like Ross [Taylor], with his 150; Jamie How, who I think averaged over 40 for us. So little things like that you take with you, but experienced performers must stand up at all times.

"The fact we performed for pockets of the Test match but not for the whole five days is what's letting us down, and the only way you can rectify that is by playing more and giving young guys like Daniel Flynn, Jamie How, Ross Taylor the chance to play day after day of Test cricket. That's not going to happen. We don't have too much say in our scheduling but we've got to make the most of these Test series when they do come along. If they're going to be few and far between, we've got to perform when we do turn up."

 
 
The fact we performed for pockets of the Test match but not for the whole five days is what's letting us down, and the only way you can rectify that is by playing more - Daniel Vettori on New Zealand's inexperience
 

The most telling problem to blight New Zealand's cricket over the past decade was observed by their coach, John Bracewell, before the first Test at Lord's. Speaking candidly at the press conference, he admitted: "We don't play enough Test cricket. [Brendon] McCullum made his Test debut three matches before Andrew Strauss did and without missing a single match has played 32 Tests. In the same time Strauss, who missed a series, has played 46." Strauss, the Man of the Series, can now expect to bring up his half-century of caps when South Africa come to Lord's in July. Who knows how long McCullum will have to wait for his milestone.

It is not a problem easily rectifiable in these changing times. One-day cricket - the format which most suits New Zealand - dominates. And Twenty20 has the potential to leapfrog 50-over cricket as the game's principle format, if it hasn't done so already. Vettori - who still looks far too young to have played 84 Test matches - insists where his allegiances lie, in spite of representing Delhi Daredevils in the recently concluded Indian Premier League. And in spite of New Zealand's continually poor Test record - the last time they won a series was in 2006, beating West Indies 2-0.

"From a personal point of view [Test matches] are my favourite part of the game," he said. "It's the hardest part of the game and the most rewarding. You never hurt this much from a one-day loss or a Twenty20 loss and you're never as elated with the same. Test cricket is the most important thing for a lot of guys around the world, but we still have to back that these forms of the game are coming into it ... and if we can find a window, then hopefully that will sort out everyone's problems."

The sporting phrase of choice these days appears to be "journey", and Vettori's trip as captain - to a destination yet unknown - will be long and draining. As these six Tests against England have demonstrated, their inability to string consistent performances over five days has cost them dearly, and not even Vettori's intellectual leadership can provided any viable solution.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Will Luke Assistant editor Will opted against a lifetime of head-bangingly dull administration in the NHS, where he had served for two years. In 2005 came a break at Cricinfo where he slotted right in as a ferociously enthusiastic tea drinker and maker, with a penchant for using "frankly" and "marvellous". He also runs The Corridor, a cricket blog where he can be found ranting and raving about all things - some even involving the sport. He is a great-great nephew of Sir Jack Newman, the former Wellingtonian bowler who took two wickets at 127 apiece for New Zealand.
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