New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 2nd day March 7, 2013

England wasteful in 'home' conditions

England's inauspicious start to Test cricket in 2013 was a consequence of their failure to bat well in conditions that should have reminded them of the beginning of the County Championship

It has not been a good week for England, but the second day in Dunedin comprehensively trumped the other setbacks. Beaten in Queenstown, they were then greeted yesterday with the news that their premier spinner, Graeme Swann, requires elbow surgery and, when play finally got underway at University Oval, they were bundled out for 167 by a left-arm quick who had three Tests under his belt and a debutant left-arm spinner.

If it had not been for the lush green outfield and packed banks around the ground it could almost have been Ahmedabad (191 all out), Galle (193 all out) or Dubai (192 and 160 all out), venues for England's three previous Tests tours that have started with defeat and been characterised by limp batting in the first innings. A partial defence to those displays is that they were in conditions far removed from home, but what faced them in Dunedin was straight out of the start of the English domestic season.

County cricketers, currently putting in the final month of preparation for the early April start to the County Championship, will expect conditions similar, if not tougher, than this; a breezy, chilly morning with some lingering cloud cover, a pitch that had been covered for close to 24 hours and the new ball in the hands of competent swing bowlers. To make it worse, apart from early on with the new ball, there was not much on offer for the seamers.

It is what England's batsmen have been schooled in, yet what followed over the next 55 overs was an opening-day performance as poor as any since Andy Flower took over. New Zealand bowled well, but this was not Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander or Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson. Bruce Martin will rarely pick up more gifted wickets. The end-of-play score suggests the No. 2 team in the world taking on the No. 8 - but not the way around that was expected

This is already shaping to the latest chapter in England's early series horror-shows overseas. Flower says it was one of his priorities when he took over to ensure the team did not always have ground to make up. However, excluding victory over Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2010 you have to go back to Port Elizabeth, in 2004, for the last time England began an away series with a win.

To turn this match around will go against history. On only 13 occasions have England won after making less than 167 batting first, and the most recent of those was 1979 against Australia at Sydney when they turned around a total of 152. This was also their lowest score batting first against New Zealand.

The way New Zealand moved to 131 without loss at the close - with a brand-new opening pair - was equally worrying for England and only went to highlight the wastefulness of their performance. They knew they would have to graft for success in India, and followed the lead of Alastair Cook, but today's performance smacked of a side that, at least subconsciously, expected things to come more easily.

The lack of a longer warm-up period will be cited as one reason for the collapse. Ideally every Test series would have a minimum two, if not three, first-class matches but conflicting demands on the schedules means those days have passed except ahead of Ashes campaigns. The players, too, are often not keen to tour for longer than they have to, so they can't have it both ways.

And, in reality, only two of England's top order were significantly short of time in the middle ahead of this series. Nick Compton made 21 and 1 in against the New Zealand XI while Kevin Pietersen only contributed 14 and 8. They both collected ducks on the second day, Compton bowled off a weak defensive shot and Pietersen trapped lbw first ball by an excellent delivery from Wagner, but in a top order where six of the top seven average over 40 that should not have been terminal.

It was the shot selection of the batsman who played themselves in that was most damaging for England. Cook, having just been dropped, picked out point; Ian Bell drove lazily to short cover; Matt Prior slapped to backward point; Jonathan Trott top-edged a sweep. Stuart Broad's slog sweep, which picked out the man pushed back to deep square that delivery, was head-in-hands moment but Broad's batting has regressed so much it did not come as a huge surprise.

Before the close England had Trott bowling with a single slip in place and a widely-spread field. One (horrendously) bad day does not have to define their year, but in 2012 their Test cricket took a dive after making a poor start against Pakistan in the UAE. This was not the statement England needed to make at the start of an Ashes year.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Albie on March 8, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    I think it's hilarious that on the very next day after Vaughan and Atherton were pillorying the Australian batting line-up after their capitulation in India, NZ have put England to the sword.

    I remember the last time "the worst Australian batting lineup in a generation" went to England. I am pretty sure Athers was on the receiving end that time... how easily one forgets!

  • Neil on March 8, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    Very poor and unacceptable batting will be greeted with the usual flannel "we'll learn from our mistakes and move on" only England do not learn from their mistakes. Tours need to be longer so teams are more prepared for the condtions and the ECB should stop pandering to players - they often miss various aspects of the tours anyway. Representing your country is a priveledge that requires sacrifice as the rewards in terms of prestige and money are considerable.

  • Rana on March 7, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    It really is very enjoyable watching this English team struggle and being humbled...I love it...keep it going Kiwis.

  • Dummy4 on March 7, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    Apart from the infantile batting display against very ordinary test bowling the real England weakness is their complete inability to make any impact on anyone when conditions aren't set in their favour. This glaring and regular underperformance with the ball (remember Tino Best getting 95) is a real worry and even the New Zealand batting, not noted for their test match resistance, are too much for the England bowling attack on this turgid, beautifully prepared home pitch. Don't expect any bounce or pace in the remaining games.

  • Halliday on March 7, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    England did underperform but credit must be given to McCullum and his crew. He made some astute captaining decisions and bustled an arrogant England out of the park. The length bowled was very good, it was a benign pitch fractionally two-paced but you would expect more runs on a pitch like this from any international team. I don't buy it that they didn't have enough preparation. Perhaps now they will show some respect to the NZers and play better otherwise it will be a kiwi whitewash!

  • Fraser on March 7, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    i dont think all is lost for england BUT they cannot win from this position. Only a decent showing from Cook, compton, trott can see them draw this match. Only the pietersen dismissal was a truly excellent delivery, the rest were poor shot selection.

  • Dummy4 on March 7, 2013, 18:46 GMT

    The lack of a winning combination will show its result in about a couple of days. Swann out means a lot for England. This team enters a rough phase at a wrong time. The Indian triumph may be remembered for long. They have not been performing okay ever since they entered the Kiwi land. Much expected from England who had a recent high(no doubts about it), but have lost the number one title. Nerves may not be at the right place...every time a turn around..ohhh,..this ain't a sequel. May be they all got relaxed with their supremacy and here comes the downfall.

  • Anil on March 7, 2013, 18:17 GMT

    But Andrew,they(the English) did have time. If i remember, the third ODI ended on 23rd and the test started on 6th. A gap of 10 days. Surely, they could have had another 3 day game. Or at least a two day game. And this is all the more significant as they are playing 3 back to back tests. And probably they were expecting wickets to be less helpful to bowlers, given the time of the year(As in Mar-Apr, NZ have produced some batting wickets in the past). No denying the fact that they batted poorly. Having said that, this team seems to have great resilience. Maybe it will be a repeat of 2008.

  • Alistair on March 7, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    Lets get this straight...Kiwis played brilliantly today and should win this at a canter.But England will bounce back ,its what they do time and time again. For all those who go on about series wins/losses - england have only lost at home to SA other wise unbeaten in 4 years and beyond.Touring drawn in SA,sri lanka,Thrashed Aus,beat india,bangla and NZ.Only blip Pakistan when battered by 2 class spinners and even then we should have won 2-1 but for a lack of bottle and then brains. We are however not as good as some think.....but SA apart nor is any other country.Aus are in a woeful state, i actually feel sorry for them and after years of misery i never thought id say that! Cant wait for the ashes in England when our bowlers dismantle possibly the worst batting line up in Australian cricket history.If clarke gets injured it could be hilarious. Days like this happen in sport,its why it is so compelling,i love it and while im dissapointed ,england will come again.