2nd Test, Leeds

England v New Zealand, 2015

James Coyne


BJ Watling scores his fifth Test hundred, England v New Zealand, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 3rd day, May 31, 2015
BJ Watling scores his fifth Test hundred © Getty Images
Enlarge
Related Links
Tour and tournament reports : England v New Zealand, 2015
Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of England

At Leeds, May 29-June 2. New Zealand won by 199 runs. Toss: England. Test debut:L. Ronchi.
If a victory by the touring team had ever raised more smiles, then it must have taken place during a more generous age. It was typical of Brendon McCullum's New Zealand to respond to defeat at Lord's - and a few accusations of recklessness - by squeezing the throttle. McCullum said he did not view his country's fifth and most emphatic Test win in England as "vindication" for going flat out. But, if it meant the ECB mandarins would stop treating New Zealand as just a pre-Ashes stocking filler, so much the better.No side batting more than 150 overs in a Test had scored more quickly than New Zealand. Remarkably, they did so from two for two in the first innings, and 23 for two in the second. It translated into some beautifully absurd moments: McCullum leaned into his first ball and crashed it for six over cover, then leaned back to the first after tea, and skewed to a grateful mid-off. New Zealand's method of combating the second new ball was apparently to flay as many runs as possible before it became available.

But not all their tactics were so revolutionary. Best of all, their seamers swung the ball on a good length, even when they were being hit to the boundary, knowing their captain would keep backing them with a fully stocked cordon. When Boult and Southee induced a series of prods on the second evening and third morning, New Zealand's catching approached majestic levels.Cook, for his part, spent uncomfortably long periods standing alone at slip, after Broad had shoved most of his catchers out on the hook. Among those unimpressed was Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire head coach who had just lost out on the England job to Trevor Bayliss. "You're just taking out possible modes of dismissal," he said. "If you see some intent from a lower-order player, and then scatter the field, you're not backing your own abilities."

Ballance and Bell had a similarly torrid match, and were responsible for three missed slip catches between them. It didn't need a Headingley regular to point out that Lyth's hands at second slip had been crucial in Yorkshire's 2014 County Championship title.Instead, he found himself in the ring or at short leg, presumably because this was his second Test.England's new slimline knitwear - which had tickled London's fashion columnists -proved inadequate for the bracing south-westerly that swept frequent bands of rain across Headingley and prevented the toss until 1pm. During the World Cup quarter-final, Guptill had clattered West Indies' Andre Russell on to the lid of Wellington's Cake Tin. But that was of little use against Jimmy Anderson, armed with the shiny red Dukes under heavy cloud. Guptill groped at two outswingers before feathering a third, giving Anderson his 400th Test wicket; as a congratulatory message flashed up on the big screen, another shower had the players scurrying off.

To the second delivery after the resumption,Williamson followed in near-identical fashion. Latham, though, showed all the nous of atop-drawer left-handed opener, timing the ball sweetly off his pads or when offered width,and stealing quick singles. Wood and Stokes, who burned so brightly at Lord's, struggled to settle into the fabled Leeds line and length, and were routinely picked off.The injuries to Watling and Corey Anderson in the opening Test had left New Zealand struggling for balance. They retained Watling as a specialist No. 6, and gave the gloves to Luke Ronchi, meaning they had as many Test wicketkeepers in the team as genuine bowlers. At 34, Ronchi was their oldest Test debutant for nearly half a century, through acircuitous route of seven limited-overs caps for Australia and 57 for New Zealand. He was also the first Luke to play Test cricket, completing all four gospels - as if Yorkshiremen needed convincing this was hallowed turf.

Ronchi was determined not to forsake his game he flashed his first ball over the slips, and hummed along as if playing a one-dayer,catching Latham up on 72 in the 49th over.It was then that England's fielding fell apart. Latham was dropped three times in eight balls: off Ali at square leg and leg slip, then in Broad's next over when Bell, at second slip, declined to go for a chance high to his right which Cook, diving behind him, could only fingertip away. Latham was eventually held at first - but not before he and Ronchi had put on New Zealand's fifth hundred partnership for the sixth wicket since the start of 2014. Their score of 297 for eight at stumps was the most in a day's Test cricket in which an entire session had been lost.Broad's aversion to being driven had been telegraphed when he began digging the ball in from round the wicket, and duped Ronchi into picking out fine leg. It seemed hasty to resume the strategy on the second morning, though a 40-run stand for the last wicket seemed minor by England's recent standards.

By contrast, Cook and Lyth emitted an old-world assurance as they settled in for England's first century opening stand at home since 2011. On 29, Cook square-drove Southee for four to pass Graham Gooch's Test aggregate of 8,900 runs; for the first time since Jack Hobbs and S. F. Barnes in February 1914, England had both their leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in the same side. The openers took the total to 177 - an England record for the first wicket at Headingley - at which point Cook missed a sweep and was given out on review, the second time an lbw verdict from umpire Ravi had been overturned by DRS.Lyth's only indiscretions came in the nineties: a chip towards mid-on wrong-footed the substitute fielder Neil Wagner, and another delivery had rolled back on to his leg stump without dislodging the bail; Lyth's fresh-air kick at the ball confirmed, on FA Cup final day, that this one-time Manchester City trial list had chosen the right sport.But England's hopes of a big lead were soon up in smoke. Ballance did for Lyth while attempting a suicidal single and, as the last hour began, with the new ball imminent, the skies darkened and Yorkshire sparked up their new rose-shaped floodlights. Boult and Southee licked their lips, and England's lengthy middle order, from Ballance to Ali, was gutted for 29 runs.

Broad, showing signs of a return to confidence with the bat, was able to slap a further 83 alongside the last two, which hoisted England up to 350 - the eighth instance of first-innings parity in a Test.New Zealand's next task was to shed a tag of third-innings vulnerability. When Broad nipped out Latham and Williamson, their second wicket had mustered nought, nought, nought and eight across the series. But, in the next over, Ballance missed another chance at slip; somehow Anderson, who had just been spoken to for running on the pitch, did not blow a gasket. Guptill and Taylor embarked on their version of a repair job, stroking 99 at almost seven an over, before McCullum reined himself in to add a precious 121 with the sturdy Watling, whose sore knee proved no impediment to a fifth Test hundred.

With New Zealand 338 ahead and two days remaining, England were up against it.Their bowling coach Ottis Gibson acknowledged they should have plugged away on a good length, so it was telling when Cook favoured Wood to start next morning, and again with the second new ball. When Broad was brought on, a few lusty blows from Southee soon had him banging it in, with no change in fortunes. After a final avalanche of 77 runs in seven overs, New Zealand declared on 454 for eight. For the first time in a Test innings,eight different batsmen had struck a six.Cook and Lyth began steadily, but rain arrived after lunch, and filled in for the day.

That ought to have boosted England's survival chances, but it also meant New Zealand's three seamers could return fresh on the last day, when the weather was set fair. Root's overnight promise that England would go for the runs regardless was either impressive self-belief or an attempt to lure out the Yorkshire public. But this was a working day interm-time: fewer than 17,000 attended across the last three days, despite virtual give aways on the Monday and Tuesday.Any hopes of a late stampede were scotched by lunch: the dismissals of Ballance,bowled for the third time in the series, and Bell, turning Craig round the corner into thehands of Williamson, who had just been moved to leg slip, were especially anaemic. Withthe exception of a fleet-footed riposte from Buttler, Craig wheeled away unchallenged into the footmarks at the Rugby Stand End; Williamson's remodelled off-spin swept up three partnership-breaking wickets. Just before five o'clock, England slumped to their fourth defeat in six Tests at Headingley.

McCullum had now won a greater percentage of his Tests than any New Zealand captain. But his appeal was best captured by the small details. In the hour before play onthe fourth day, usually a time for pep-talks, drills and protocol, he had sidled up to David Boon, the ICC match referee, who was perched on the light roller by the edge of the square. For about 20 minutes they were just two cricket men shooting the breeze. A year earlier, it had been Boon's job to wade through the muck of the Anderson-Jadeja dispute at Trent Bridge, as world cricket's two richest boards indulged in pointless litigation.Watching New Zealand was some kind of therapy.
Man of the Match:B-J. Watling.

© John Wisden & Co