New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Auckland, 1st day March 22, 2013

England hope for 'crazy' session


Nasser Hussain has never quite lived down putting the Australians in to bat at the Gabba in 2002 and seeing them end the first day on 364 for 2. Alastair Cook may sleep slightly uncomfortably in Auckland after sticking New Zealand in and seeing them finish on 250 for 1.

However, bowling first is becoming the norm in New Zealand; this is the seventh time in a row the team winning the toss has put the opposition in. Brendon McCullum has insisted whatever life is on offer will be there early and Cook followed that belief at Eden Park, but there was no more movement or playing-and-missing than any average Test-match opening day.

It is often said not to judge a toss decision after the first session, so when New Zealand lunched on 79 for 1 the next two sessions were awaited. Five down would have been passable. One down is close to putting the series out of reach although England, as they have to, retained belief that the situation could quickly change. They can look to the previous Test where New Zealand took 8 for 198 on the second day after just two wickets on the first.

"I don't think it's a disastrous day of Test cricket for us," Steven Finn said. "Yes, obviously we'd have liked to take more than one wicket. But they've only got 250 runs on the board, and a crazy session - like we've had before - can turn the game on its head."

Finn was pointing out the run-rate was kept under three-an-over, but if that is now classed as a success by England it shows how their expectations in this series have changed. The bowling, to be fair, was not awful and a few of the edges through the slips to the short third-man boundaries could have gone to hand. But it never felt as though England were on the verge of creating sizable inroads into New Zealand's top order.

Barring the first innings in Wellington it has not felt that way at any point in the series, and even that innings took a lot of hard work. Throughout the matches, batsmen willing to get their heads down and cut out risks - as Peter Fulton and Kane Williamson did superbly - have been difficult to shift.

England will have come into this series wanting to use the height advantage of their quicks to test the techniques of the New Zealand batsmen who were exposed against South Africa's pace. However, England's bowlers have not been consistently as threatening as South Africa's on recent form and the pitches have negated their plans.

The lush outfield at Eden Park, which is no mean feat given that rugby was played on it last weekend and that the country is in drought, also hindered England's attempts to get the ball to reverse - a tactic they have used with great success in the subcontinent and Australia when traditional methods have been unavailable. The only spell of reverse in the series for England came from James Anderson on the third day in Wellington.

Finn, though, despite being a modern sportsman and 'picking out the positives' from a tough day, did make a valid point about not allowing the scoreboard to race away. That could easily have happened on this ground and looked as though it may occur when Fulton latched onto Monty Panesar during the afternoon session.

"At no stage today did we get despondent. To keep them at three-an-over and not too far out of our sights is good," Finn said. "It's important we try to wrestle the momentum from New Zealand - because after a day like that, they do have it."

One more day like this for the home side and it will be very difficult for England to win the series.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 23, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    @Jono Makim on (March 23, 2013, 13:25 GMT) Fair points there but what I will also say was that in the UAE series where we were heavily beaten these 3 (along with all our other batsmen) let us down badly whereas our 4 main bowlers all contributed and all averaged between 20 and 27. I'd say Jimmy and Swann are WC but WC is very subjective. I guess the 1 Australian you define as WC is Doherty right?

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    @JG2704, Yes, those 3 exactly. You could add Prior I suppose, as he´d push for a place in every test team and has the stats to back that up. I haven´t included Swann nor Anderson as their stats just do not justify it and there have been too many times over the last year where the English attack just hasn´t been able to make inroads.

  • John on March 22, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    @Jono Makim on (March 22, 2013, 15:11 GMT) You're absolutely right there. It's quite a scary thought that NZ are so on top. Out of interest who do you have down as Eng's 3 WC players? Cook,KP,Trott ? No Prior , Jimmy , Swann? Just that if we are going by stats - which over a number of years tell a fairly accurate picture , I'd say you couldn't have 1 batsmen from the trio without the other 2 as they're all within a run or so of each other re averages and have been for the last year or so ?

  • John on March 22, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    @ blink182alex on (March 22, 2013, 17:17) I agree re Steyn. He is ahead of everyone and has been for years. I'd say in terms of pacer's Vernon is 2nd best in the world right now with Jimmy 3rd , however I wouldn't necessarily say Australia's pace dept is deeper than England. They've probably used more pacemen than England because of injuries and lack of form but does that mean they have more depth right now? The Indian series isn't doing your case much good.

    @ Mitty2 on- I would usually respond but then notice it's the same usual rubbish you're recycling on here and I've never got any responses to my other responses so I guess you struggle with proper debate. It's a shame , you used to post some balanced stuff. Shame you can't follow the examples of fellow Aus fans Meety and Jono Makin on this thread and write something a little more constructive and about the game itself

  • Fraser on March 22, 2013, 19:21 GMT

    England should feel like they have actually got off likely becuase if rutherford had got in instaed of Fulton it could be 350 for 1 instead of 250.The pitch puts me in mind of a concrete breeze block. No movement,no swing. This is going to be a long test for the bowling team...

  • Alex on March 22, 2013, 17:17 GMT

    And despite all this the english media still think that england's pace attack is as good as South Africa's and has more depth than Australia's, both are false. I am yet to hear one ex player or someone else in the media put Steyn above Anderson, of course Anderson is excellent but come on, in terms of quicks Steyn is first and daylight second.

  • Dummy4 on March 22, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    Keeping the run rate down on the first day may be okay, but with Taylor and McCullum waiting to bat I don´t see it being of much use, they could easily flay a tiring attack and though i´ve not seen a ball bowled its hard to imagine the day 2 pitch being anything other than good for batting.

    @Jim Bond. I don´t think SA´s growing dominance has anything at all to do with their bench strength. They have 6 world class players in their team and no other team comes close to that. Guys like Kleinveldt, Petersen, Faf, Duminy etc may chip in here and there but they are usually coming in on the back of a century from Amla, Smith, Kallis or ABdeV or coming onto bowl after Steyn of Vern have taken a couple of early poles. In contrast, England has 3 world class players, the Aussies one, SL one, Pakistan 2, W.I 1, while for the likes of NZ and India their better perfoming players right now are pretty fresh on the scene and its a little hard to judge just how good they are.

  • sam on March 22, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    Finger spinners need surfaces to help them. Never heard of a single finger spinner who could turn the ball substantially on any surface. It just doesn't happen. Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann turn the ball pretty big but give them a surface that doesn't turn and they become very ineffective. Murali was a wrist off-spinner not a finger spinner.

  • James on March 22, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    This is why SA are a clear level above the rest now- they have a bench strength which is not much below their playing 11. For SA, a substitute pace bowler can come and pick up seven wickets, while a Faf can easily substitute for a Duminy. England for instance are a good side but are too dependent on Anderson, Swann, Pietersen, and Cooke. Injury to a couple of them, and the English side would struggle against most teams.Same for other non-SA teams

  • Dummy4 on March 22, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    @ RandyOz. Failure? We just won 2-1 in India whereas your boys are 0-3, heading toward 0-4. Watching it has been an utter joy. Where do I start? Thought your 'attack' handled Dhawan as well in the last test as it did Dhoni in the first. In any case, I don't think we've got too much to worry about in the Ashes as they'll probably forget to do their homework on the English batsmen....(did you see what I did there?). As for Phil Hughes, what a laughing stock. Forget spin, I'm looking forward to him facing Anderson with the ball hooping around at Trent Bridge. What about Maxwell and Henriques? Please play them. In fact, please keep the entire current squad. The only annoying thing about that is I might not get to use my day four Lords tickets and day five Oval tickets.

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