Debut’s aren’t for everyone
I cannot write this post without discussing the obvious. Ollie Robinsons tweets that emerged at the start of this test were horrific. Whatever angle or approach you take it was flat out racist and inexcusable. As a cis white male it is not my place to discuss in what manner these may have offended me however I will say that if you try and excuse him then you too are part of the issue. The events of this week (including Overtons apology) have shown us that the issue of racism and discrimination and the acceptance of this on a base level is ever present in most institutions involved in the game. Twitter's collective outcry at these tweets gave some hope of a chance for change and the push for this change is becoming more and more common by the day.
Sepp Herbergers infamous description of football is one of my favourite quotes of all time. Herberger states that “The ball is round. The game lasts ninety minutes. This much is fact. Everything else is theory.” and this can easily be translated to English test match cricket “The ball is red. The game lasts 5 days. This much is fact. Everything else is reaction”. England battled hard and fought well in this game but it didn’t stop the usual outbursts of dropping someone or essentially banishing players back to their counties. Numbers were presented without context attempting to prove points and opinions that many would disagree with. Some players' careers were over by the end of the first innings and quite frankly this repetitive lack of foresight is becoming ever more dull to watch and read. The cries on the last day for Sibley to be dropped, the shouts of chasing 273 in 70 overs against Tim Southee I mean do people even think anymore. One of the things I aim to do, not just in cricket but in life, is be open minded I try to listen to peoples opinions and let them influence mine (not saying i'm very good at it fyi) but sometimes I read things and want to break my computer screen by god are people ridiculous sometimes. England are a good team; we know this and we have seen this over the past 18 months. It's just that they’re not a great team. New Zealand on the other hand are a great team and part of me feels that England fans were underestimating the Kiwis and just how good they were going to be. I mean if you think that Tim Southee with a Dukes ball wasn’t going to be a genius and work over most of England's batsmen then your tunnel vision is simply exemplary. Anyway enough about that; what actually happened in the game?
Day 1 began rather timidly for England with neither one of Stuart Broad or James Anderson looking particularly threatening with the new ball. Bite and penetration were sorely missed and England's premier bowlers (this was accompanied with a few thoughts of maybe they’re past it). Poor bowling was rather poetically juxtaposed by the fluent and gorgeous batting of Devon Conway. None of Latham, Williamson or Taylor looked particularly impressive on day 1 but the debutant was on another planet. From his very first runs, which took around 25 minutes to get, a hundred was almost a guarantee. Balls on a good length he defended, balls too pitched up he drove and held the pose and when they dropped short he hooked and pulled. Conway, rather sadly, had the best day of his test career on his first and the heights which he reached the next he may never match again. Ollie Robinson bowled well in the midst of his controversy claiming his maiden test wicket and showing exactly why he averages 21 in FC cricket. Mark Wood was a bit of a scatter gun but also was heavily misused by England as they made him smash it in half way down the track and this tactic just did not work and every England fan was shouting at their screen. Conway brought up his maiden ton in his maiden test, Nicholls his 50 and England didn’t do much else.
Day 2 came about and this time Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson were on it. Nicholls, Watling, Santner and De Grandhomme were all removed cheaply in a combined spell which was fierce, accurate and tough. Wood bowled at the toes and the neck with his skiddy bouncer coming onto batsmen at such pace that they just didn’t know what to do. Wood showed his true value as a test match bowler on day 2 pitching it full looking for movement and as I said, banging it in short and cramping the batsmen up so they had nowhere to go. Ollie Robinson was immaculate in his line and length picking up 2 big wickets. Devon Conway was the inverse as he has just carried on batting the same as he did on day 1. Conways method didn’t change once in his innings and England just couldn’t remove him; everything the hosts tried just didn’t seem to phase the debutant. A hooked 6 brought uo his double before a close run out brought about his downfall a star had been made on debut. Then England came out to bat and we experienced 10 of the most exhilarating new ball overs in recent memory. Jamieson and Southee were of course on the money, removing Sibley and Crawley cheaply and not giving them any runs. Burns and Root batted through till the close of play and once again England rescued themselves from a collapse. The captain for me was the focal point of day 2 with him batting through tough conditions with the ball hooping round corners. Root took his time and showed that at the moment he truly is operating on a different level to those around him.
Day 3 was a wash out and we had time to reflect on the events of the past week and also just take a break from a test match which was moving at 100mph (or 160 clicks if that’s more your fancy).
Day 4 was the highs and lows of England. Root was dismissed first ball by Jamieson and Rory Burns was joined by his fellow Surrey man at the crease and Ollie Pope soon departed. Pope's technique has been the focal point of much discussion and Sean Wilson (Inside Edge Cricket writer and @WilsonFC2012 on Twitter) has covered this excellently and definitely go check out his tweets on Pope for a far more elegant explanation of what’s happened. In essence Pope is far too side on and as a result of this his weight is naturally towards the offside meaning he’s always falling over himself. Pope is such a strong driver of the ball that he’s tried to make this his main scoring shot by closing his stance and moving across but in fact he’s limiting himself as he can only drive balls that are really full and wide. Pope is also missing out on the leg side play and is consistently missing the ball nipped back in. it does feel like everyone recognises this technical flaw but Pope. Anyway that’s enough on the ginger haired golden boy (again if you want a better look at it go to Seans tweet linked at the bottom of this post). Lawrence was out to an atrocious shot and Bracey got Tim Southeed. Robinson batted well with Burns making a solid 40 on debut. Rory Burns is the man of the moment not only due to his terrific county form but his 3rd test match ton. Burns is a class player and deep down we all know this. I have written about Burns quite a bit previously and I really rate him as a player and his 132 which dragged England out of a seemingly inescapable hole was one of the grittiest test match innings I can remember and his ton was thoroughly well deserved though leaving Jimmy Anderson stranded at the other end was a tad unfair of him. England were immaculate with the ball going past the inside and outside edge and not going for many though as day 5 would show this was largely due to the conservative batting nature of New Zealand. Robinson was once again the pick of the bowlers showing his value by removing the double centurion and Kane Williamson- Robinson was all over the former like a rash. England batted horrifically in the middle order (something that has become a rarity so not too much to worry about as everyone has off days) but the bowling was tight and consistent, something that they have really pressed home when Silverwood has been incharge.
Day 5 began and a win for either side was looking unlikely and England struck quickly. Robinson claimed some more wickets as did Stuart Broad. The relentless pressure from the night before wasn’t there and England leaked some runs and after an early lunch England were chasing 273 in just over 70 overs. Starting was tricky, as it had been all week, and Burns and Sibley were unsurprisingly timid in their opening overs. However they battled through reaching 49-1 after 23.4 overs which is a very encouraging sign for England after a poor first innings. The batting was slow and gritty and everything which England are striving to be. Root made another 40 and this is somewhat of a worry with Root being unable to convert in England. The next game is crucial for Root to get in good nick before the best pace attack in the world comes to town. Zak Crawley is going through his first lean patch as a player and looks dreadfully out of nick and whilst he is the golden boy it’s not an awful idea to drop him and let him play some games for Kent. Dom Sibley made a battling 50 and the usual brigade of people who forget that a test match is 5 days started complaining that he wasn’t striking at 70. Reading these takes is just exhausting mentally and honestly takes a lot out of me. I cannot stand how fickle some fans are. England batting for a draw was the best case scenario and I'm happy it happened. Day 5 was a good day of test cricket and everyone did something.
Overall it was a mixed game for England. A lot happened and there were a lot of positives to take from it for Joe Roots men. Runs for both Burns and Sibley is an encouraging sign and so was their second innings resilience. Robinsons debut was the standout story for both actions on and off the field and he highlighted that he can be Englands number 8 going forward. James Bracey proved he wasn’t a keeper and Jos Buttler almost has to play the next game as Englands wicket keeper. Bracey had a fairly quiet debut with his duck being the most he offered however he is one of Englands best young players and based on recent form one of their best batsmen. Devon Conway had a debut to remember and there are no words left to describe him except for my dads take away from him making a double “he should retire now… he also has the head of a bald man, surprised he’s got hair”. We move onto Edgbaston where it’s all to play for and this time England need to stick to their methods and success will come.
https://twitter.com/WilsonFC2012/status/1401456437046517765?s=20 (Seans analysis again would heavily recommend)