Some tours live in the memory for many years. This one was gratefully forgotten, by those who played and those who watched, soon after the last ball was bowled.
After the explosive events on the pre-Christmas tour of Pakistan, peace might well have been the first priority. It was not, however, worthily achieved, for amid the relentless drudgery of slow and undistinguished cricket, England's players again allowed their on-field behaviour to plunge to unacceptable levels. Chris Broad and Graham Dilley were fined for tawdry incidents during Test matches; certain others might have been considered fortunate to escape sanction. The most alarming aspect of all was that the players themselves, and even their team manager, Mr Micky Stewart, seemed unwilling to acknowledge the poor impression which was being created by such conduct. Their oft-repeated reasoning was that other Test teams behaved similarly. True or not, this was no justification. England teams have prided themselves on maintaining certain standards; should this principle be sacrificed, the game would be on a course inevitably ending in the gutter.
Broad's indiscretion occurred during the Australian Bicentennial Test match in Sydney, a glittering event attended by good crowds and played in a fine spirit. Having batted for more than seven hours, scoring 139, Broad petulantly smashed the stumps with his bat after playing on to Waugh. His action was the mark of a man who finds it difficult to accept dismissal, whatever his score at the time. It was nothing new to see him look disbelieving when out, as those who saw the Pakistan tour would agree; but unless he curtails such behaviour, his very capable batting will be undermined and a promising Test career could be cut short. On this occasion the England management acted promptly to fine the player £500.
Dilley's fine, of £250, for loudly swearing when appeals for a catch were rejected during the First Test against New Zealand in Christchurch, was accompanied by a managerial smokescreen which sought to excuse his outburst. The decision to punish had plainly not met with the agreement of the captain, Mike Gatting, whose attitude to overseas umpires appeared not to have altered. Although Gatting indulged in nothing as overtly appalling as his row with Shakoor Rana in Pakistan, his expressions and gestures regularly spoke volumes. There were too many times when he appeared to be leading English dissent against decisions, rather than calming it. It was impossible to pretend that the series was well umpired, but that is hardly the point.
Gatting probably began this tour with an ambivalent attitude to a job he had kept against the wishes of certain high-ranking officials. There was a part of him challenging the authorities to strip him of power; another part of him, well aware of the overwhelming support he could command within the dressing-room, wanted nothing more than to leave the unpleasantness behind and prove himself above it all. The latter emotion finally won through. By the end of the tour he was speaking much more positively of the future, while there were signs of an increasing tactical awareness and a burgeoning confidence in all he did on the field. Whatever one's opinion of his temper, he was the best man available to captain the side and he finished the tour carrying the goodwill of those inside and outside the team environs.
In the absence of Gooch, Gower and Botham, none of whom was available, Gatting was the only England batsman capable of playing the type of innings likely to dominate an attack and influence a Test match. That he failed to do so, in the limited opportunities available to him, contributed to the lack of purpose apparent in much of England's cricket. So many of the others, both batsmen and bowlers, were at a stage of their Test careers when a poor tour can be held as proof of inadequacy; consequently, caution was paramount in their play. In New Zealand, this led to stalemate because the home team, deprived early on of their champion, Richard Hadlee, and their new batting star, Andrew Jones, had neither the resources nor the courage to attack. The series thus became an unending round of shadow-boxing.
All four Tests on the tour were drawn, although England called the tune for much of the one game in Australia, and for virtually all of the opening Test in New Zealand, played on a Christchurch wicket extravagantly helpful to seam bowlers. Had England been able to call on Neil Foster, in support of Dilley, they might have won in Christchurch and so provoked more aggressive cricket in the next two Tests. Sadly, however, Foster was already back in England for surgery on the knee he had injured in Australia.
Dilley responded well to the challenge of being the undisputed senior bowler. He took eight wickets in Christchurch and seven in Auckland, bowling with the consistent control of a high-quality performer. All of his victims in the first innings at Christchurch, where his return of six for 38 was a career best, were caught close to the wicket, a testimony to his line. Unfortunately, he failed once again to complete a series without injury, breaking down on the first day of the final test in Wellington and taking no part in the one-day series which followed.
Paul Jarvis, 22 years old, was the pick of the other bowlers and was unlucky to be left out in Wellington after doing little wrong in the first two Tests. He appeared able to adapt from five-day to one-day cricket rather better than either Phillip DeFreitas or Neal Radford, neither of whom enhanced his reputation. John Emburey's work with the ball was again largely unrewarding. Although he had emerged as an increasingly prolific, if unorthodox, batsman and was a customarily good catcher - though not in New Zealand - it was an indictment of the spin bowling available in England that he had retained his Test place without challenge while taking so few wickets. He bowled a defensive trajectory, immensely good in one-day cricket, to a field setting which would have made the slow bowlers of old cringe, and he seldom looked like bowling out a Test team. Eddie Hemmings, the second spinner, out-bowled Emburey in Sydney, where Australia were obliged to follow on, but he played in only one subsequent Test - on the unresponsive Wellington pitch. At 39, however, he was not the long-term answer.
Among the batsmen, there were features to admire in the play of Broad, Martyn Moxon and Tim Robinson. Broad's two Test centuries, followed by another in the one-day international in Napier, were made with the diligence of an opener whose outlook was not dissimilar to Boycott's in its intensity. Moxon improved with every week of the tour and ended it looking a decent deputy for Gooch. Robinson, meanwhile, discarded his old inhibitions and batted with far more freedom to very good effect.
Neil Fairbrother and Bill Athey had disappointing tours, but David Capel, by his dedicated attitude and consistent results, indicated that he had a future in the all-rounder's role if he could knock the rough edges off his bowling. Bruce French's wicket-keeping, previously so undemonstratively good, at times looked scruffy on tour. With his stand-in, Jack Richards, also failing to impress in his few openings, most judges were left with the feeling that a change was necessary.
The most disappointing aspect of the cricket in New Zealand was the pitches. At Christchurch, the bowlers were given too much help; at Auckland and Wellington, they were given none at all, the bounce being low and the pace drearily slow. Unless more pace and life can be injected into the Test surfaces in this country, there is the prospect of more series like this one. A final thought was that the winter's cricket was too long. The England team was away from home, in all, for five and a half months, playing seven Tests and sixteen one-day internationals in four countries. Those who stayed the course were undoubtedly glad when it was over, and that is not the way to be. It seemed apparent that an administrative re-think was required lest more players opt out of England side because they cannot face the grind of touring.
Test matches - Played 4: Drawn 4.
First-class matches - Played 8: Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 5.
Wins - Northern Districts, President's XI.
Loss - Shell XI.
Draws - Australia, New Zealand (3), Wellington.
One-day Internationals - Played 5: Won 2, Lost 3. Wins - New Zealand (2). Losses - Australia, New Zealand (2).
Match reports for
Match reports for