Sidebottom makes the difference
By winning the three-Test series after losing the first game, Michael Vaughan's team emulated a feat achieved by only three other England teams. In 2000-01, they edged Sri Lanka in the last two Tests after losing the first, but the two other instances were way back in the 1880s. (Click here for the full list of come-from-behind series wins.)
Like you'd expect in such a close, there wasn't much to choose between the two teams - the batting for both teams was less than convincing, though England redeemed themselves in the last Test, while the onus of taking wickets was largely on the fast bowlers. The difference between the runs per wicket for the two teams was just two runs, but where New Zealand lost out was in their inability to convert starts into centuries: 14 times their batsmen topped 50, but apart from Ross Taylor's 120 in Hamilton, none went on to a hundred. England's lack of centuries had been a talking point of late, but here they rediscovered that habit, scoring four hundreds, three of which came in the crucial last Test.
|Team||Runs||Wickets||Average||Runs/ over||100s/ 50s|
|New Zealand||1755||59||29.74||3.37||1/ 13|
New Zealand's biggest problem was their top-order batting. Matthew Bell was woeful in five out of six innings, while Mathew Sinclair was even worse. Their six opening stands in the series produced 44, 1, 4, 18, 1, and 48 - 116 runs at an average of 19.33. The average partnerships for the third and fifth wickets were even worse. Among the partnerships for the top five wickets, the only one which consistently produced the runs was the second-wicket stand, thanks largely to Stephen Fleming's presence at No. 3. His associations with Jamie How were the most profitable for New Zealand - the two added 269 runs in four innings at an average of 67.25. The sixth and seventh wickets also helped them beef up their total, with Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum contributing consistently in every game.
England's top order, on the other hand, was relatively more prolific. The biggest disappointment was their captain - Michael Vaughan finished with a disappointing 123 runs in six innings - but the rest of the batsmen all averaged more than 30. The partnerships for each of the top-order wickets were more significant as well; the only exception was the third-wicket stand, which averaged a meagre 20.33.
|Wicket||Eng - ave stand||100s/ 50s||NZ - ave stand||100s/ 50s|
|First||35.33||0/ 2||19.33||0/ 0|
|Second||31.33||1/ 1||69.83||1/ 4|
|Third||20.33||0/ 1||12.67||0/ 0|
|Fourth||52.67||1/ 0||34.50||0/ 2|
|Fifth||44.16||0/ 2||10.83||0/ 0|
|Sixth||50.67||1/ 1||46.16||1/ 2|
|Seventh||30.83||0/ 2||35.67||1/ 1|
|Eighth||24.80||0/ 0||24.16||0/ 0|
|Ninth||9.40||0/ 0||21.00||0/ 0|
|Tenth||10.00||0/ 0||22.00||0/ 1|
England's biggest strength throughout the series was Ryan Sidebottom. He was easily the outstanding bowler from either side, with 24 wickets at 17.08. His haul is among the highest for England in a three-Test series. Only three times has a bowler taken more than 24 - George Lohmann took 35 against South Africa in 1895-96, while the same team suffered on two other occasions as well, as Sydney Barnes took 34 during the Triangular Tournament in 1912, and Colin Blythe nailed 26 in 1907. The last time an England bowler took 24 in a three-Test series was nearly 30 years back, when Ian Botham destroyed New Zealand.
Sidebottom took more than 50% of the wickets that fell to the England seamers. Remove him from the equation, and the rest gave away 40 runs per wicket, which was largely due to the disappointing performances of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard in the first Test.
New Zealand's seam attack was in splendid form too, with Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills the outstanding performers, while Tim Southee had a debut to remember. Overall, the New Zealand pace attack was slightly more effective than their England counterparts.
|Team||Wickets||Average||5WI/ 10WM||Strike rate||Econ rate|
|New Zealand||41||26.60||1/ 0||58.6||2.72|
|England minus Sidebottom||23||40.43||1/ 0||65.2||3.72|
The battle of the left-arm spinners, though, was won quite convincingly by Panesar, who sealed the series with his six-wicket haul in the last innings. Vettori was tidy throughout, but struggled for wickets - his strike rate was a poor 134.5, which is more than 22 overs per wicket.
|Bowler||Wickets||Average||5WI/ 10WM||Strike rate||Econ rate|
|Monty Panesar||11||30.18||1/ 0||66.8||2.71|
|Daniel Vettori||7||54.71||0/ 0||134.5||2.43|
Player v player stats
The one New Zealand batsman who handled Sidebottom successfully was Ross Taylor: in 154 deliveries, he scored 88 runs and was dismissed just once. Fleming clearly came out second-best in his battle against Sidebottom, falling to him three times in 112 deliveries.
Taylor was far more circumspect against Panesar, who, in turn, failed to dismiss his opposite number even once in 83 deliveries. Mills was New Zealand's best bowler against England's top three; though Southee was superb in Napier as his replacement, Mills' absence clearly hurt New Zealand in the last match.
|Stephen Fleming||Ryan Sidebottom||50||112||3||16.67|
|Jacob Oram||Ryan Sidebottom||19||51||3||6.33|
|Ross Taylor||Ryan Sidebottom||88||154||1||88.00|
|Ross Taylor||Monty Panesar||41||139||2||20.50|
|Daniel Vettori||Monty Panesar||51||83||0||-|
|Andrew Strauss||Kyle Mills||24||67||2||12.00|
|Michael Vaughan||Kyle Mills||31||92||2||15.50|
|Alastair Cook||Kyle Mills||39||87||2||19.50|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo