Whilst the Ausies is going down heavily in India, England’s hopes for a whitewash in the land of the Black Caps were dashed by a resolute and revived Kiwi-team.
After their South African ordeal the Kiwis came hard at England and only a rained out first day rescued England from serious embarrassment. That; and the defiant knock of Steven Finn (56 from 203 balls and almost five hours) as night watchman in England’s second innings, saved the visitors.
The Kiwis at least scored the moral victory which could result in sufficient confidence and a subsequent victory in one of the remaining tests. Dunedin showed the route to beat the English and after the first test the belief will be there.
The outcome of the first test will bother the English who thought it was good enough just to pitch up. A similar attitude prevailed before the South Africans arrived in England last year and the hosts lost that series with two to none.
In Dunedin it did not work out like the English suspected and to add insult to injury the drawn test widened the gap between them and the Proteas. The draw cost England a potential point on Reliance’s ICC Test Championship Table Predictor. Even if England wins the next two tests they will lose a point and trail the Proteas with 11. One victory to none will cost England two points. A drawn series will cost England 4 points.
Dunedin again rung the alarm bells for the lack of consistency and depth in the English batting line-up and it again showed how heavily they rely on Cook to score even more runs. When Cook was, for once, removed cheaply in the first innings, England managed only a very modest total.
In India, England found at least one capable partner for Cook in most games but the moment that changes, England has heaps of trouble with out of form batters.
Nick Compton might have sealed his place with a gritty maiden test ton; however, the Joe Root fan club, or shall I say Yorkshireman groupie, led by “Yorkshire” Boycs (Geoffrey Boycott), probably still believe he is better than the South African born opener.
A lot of hype was built around Root as the newest and freshest kid on the cricketing block, but in Dunedin he did his best to embarrass his godly status and hysteric followers. That said, it was clear that Ian Bell, and only “Marshmallow Brain” Bell, was to blame for the senseless run out of Root in England’s second innings.
The English will not listen to this and they will come in scores to prove me wrong but Root is overrated and not the saviour of England’s cricketing pride. He might play a role; but he is not the face of England’s cricketing future. That face might belong to James Taylor or Jonny Bairstow. For one or other unknown reason Taylor is not making the ECC cut at the moment.
Despite reasonable showings in Dunedin, Jonathan Trott and Bell’s careers continues on a downwards spiral. None of them can be counted on to win England tests and series. From an impossibly good start to test cricket Trott has been sussed out by opposing bowlers and his career average that were sky high disintegrated to below 50. Trott is looking more and more like the limited player we knew in South Africa.
Ian Bell finds himself in the same predicament and his average declined from 50 or more to 46.7. Bell was always erratic but before Nagpur in India he had a run of 24 innings without scoring a hundred.
KP Pietersen is another batter who dropped out of the 50-club and currently he averages just over 48.
England’s current bowling attack is seriously inadequate and Dunedin illustrated why the selectors are not convinced about Finn. He batted fine yes and probably rescued the test but he is in the team for his bowling, and that was appalling. Add to that Broad’s heal injury and the limitations of Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions and England must hope and pray that nothing bad happens to James Anderson.
Yes one can say in England’s defence that Swann was missing; and one can blame complacency, a lack of preparation, global warming and Stuart Broad’s misaligned chakras; but closer to the truth is the fact that the Kiwis was simply the best team on the field.
After being humiliated in South Africa the Kiwis, known for their grit and determination, turned up with a new attitude and a better team. Hamish Rutherford and Ross Taylor, who still looks a bit uneasy in the team context, were not in South Africa and it showed. The same applies to Bruce Martin, who made a good debut. Brendon McCullum, released of the opening bat, looked positive, relaxed and in control.
All in all Dunedin showed a lot for the Kiwis to build on and a lot for England to work on. It proved that this is not the dead rubber series England hoped for.
More still, England should cut down on their expectations for a white wash or even a victory in the first Ashes series.