Black Caps v England
Four things we’ve learnt
Where else can we start except for about 9.30pm when New Zealand revealed their XI for the test and we discovered coach Gary Stead had shuffled more than half his side out.
The Kane Williamson (elbow) change had already been signposted, as was the Ajaz Patel for Mitchell Santner (finger) swap. The late Tom Blundell for BJ Watling (back) change behind the stumps was also conveniently explained away as the result of an injury.
The rest — Trent Boult for Tim Southee, Daryl Mitchell for Colin de Grandhomme and Matt Henry for Kyle Jamieson — were tactical/ strategic. In the context of what they’re trying to do this month, it’s justifiable — sensible, even.
It is also a team that has a chance of winning at Edgbaston, as this is not a great England side; it’s just got less of a chance than one with your three best players in it.
What is a little bit icky, though, is the dissembling.
This is not the XI you would pick if winning a test series in England for the first time since 1999 was a priority.
As a correspondent to my text machine said: “This wouldn’t happen in an Ashes series . . . it dilutes the importance of test cricket.”
Winning this series is clearly not that important to the Black Caps, so let’s not pretend it is, regardless of what happens over the next four days.
England were dismissed for 303 11 overs into day two, adding 45 runs for their final three wickets. Trent Boult claimed the final two to finish with
4-85, with Dan Lawrence unbeaten on
81, equaling the innings high score. New Zealand were 43-1 at lunch, with Tom Latham out for six.
When England went to lunch wicketless, the absence of Southee and Jamieson, in particular, did not look clever. Having Patel and Mitchell trundling in before lunch was unlikely to have been part of the masterplan.
Everything changed once Henry crowbarred Dominic Sibley from the crease (thrilling all paying customers in the process).
If you are perplexed why Henry, in his 14th test, continues to get chances
to prove his wares, you’re probably not in a club of one. His plus-50 bowling average cannot be an accident with such a large sample size but he was good on day one and deserved better than his 2-66.
There was a suspicion English conditions and the Dukes ball would suit his style of seam bowling. Edgbaston marked the first time since December 2017 Henry had taken more than a single wicket in an innings.
Has cricket analysis and planning reached a point now where you can cater for Dukes or Kookaburra specialists?
NEW BALL MULLIGAN
If there’s one decision Tom Latham might like back, it would be to take the second new ball as soon as it was available.
With England seven down for 230 and the tail exposed, it felt like a no-brainer, but Patel was doing an
excellent job with the old nut and the new-ball bowlers — Henry and Boult — have been short of cricket of late and looked to be running on empty.
The last 10 overs of the day were New Zealand’s worst. A new ball and a pair of fresh fast bowlers to start day two would have been ideal.
KJ TO THE OVAL
Jamieson’s stocks continue to rise, with the fast bowler off to Surrey at the end of the WTC final.
Jamieson will stay with Surrey through to the end of the group stages of the T20 tournament, while also being available for two county championship matches.
The tall seamer, who is being rested for this test, replaces injured Australian Sean Abbott and pace bowler Kemar Roach.
“Playing county cricket is something I’ve always wanted to do, so to have the chance now is awesome,” Jamieson said.