“Eden Park gushed. Boult had six to his name. Southee four. England had 58”.
Things seem to happen at Eden Park, Auckland. Three years after Grant Elliott had a whole nation sinking to their knees, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, a pink ball and a few clumsy England batsmen made for a memorable evening of Test cricket.
The bright green on the pitch in a day-night encounter usually means only one thing – a nightmare for batsmen. However, both captains seemed concerned about bowling at the time of toss, although Kane Williamson entrusted in Boult and Southee and chose to send England in.
England, after an Ashes horror in Australia, needed a face uplift. Ideally, you would expect Broad and Anderson to run through batting line-ups on such wickets. They do that, you know. But alas, England weren’t bowling.
Their batting, scrutinized and shattered by relentless Aussie seamers a few months ago, appeared shaky even with Ben Stokes returning. And this was a day one of a day-night Test match at Eden Park, a venue where strange occurrences are commonplace.
First four overs the ball swung but Alastair Cook and his young partner, Mark Stoneman, weathered the storm. Then the big fish fell. Boult with the perfect, dream delivery to capture the former England captain.
The tall grass was starting to spike and the scrambled seam of the pink ball was barely visible. Joe Root, the consolidator had promoted himself to no.3 in a shortened batting line-up. But did it matter? England had a tail as long as the jerboa, a hopping rodent native to North Africa.
Soon, Root, the hulk of England’s batting line-up, was walking back cluelessly, undone by a jaffa from Trent Boult.
Then another fell. And another. And another…..
Before you knew it New Zealand were well on their way to embarrass England and wipe off their name from the lowest total in the history of Test cricket, a meagre 26.
England batsmen’s feet went nowhere. They seemed to be nailed down to the pitch beneath the mangrove forest that the grass seemed to be. Boult and Southee appeared like terminators armed with state of the art weapons. All they possessed was a girly pink ball. All that assisted them were blades of grass.
The ball swung vehemently in the air. It curved, moved around, asked questions. England didn’t have answers. Their feet didn’t move. Their batsmen looked dazed. They had seen Starc turn into Lee and Hazlewood turn into McGrath at the Ashes.
But Boult and Southee now seemed like alien fast bowlers who knew where the ball was going to land even before it was delivered. Eden Park roared as England sunk to their knees, shocked, amused, bewildered.
This England batting line-up was famed. They had tormented teams with the strength of their belly in the batting line-up. Not Root, not Bairstow, not Stokes, not Ali. Not one of them could lift the bloody mace that the willow was turning into.
Their feet were stuck in cement, batting techniques learned passionately at batting schools were thrown out of the window and the stumps just kept falling down.
The pink ball’s report before the match on Cricbuzz read thus: “The pink ball’s condition will be critical. It will be 60 overs old before the night session. Compared to last season’s pink ball, it is way more pink. The seam is hard to feel. It’s like a two-piece ball, and for swing bowlers, it is an amazing ball, because it moves a lot.”
The seam was unmistakably difficult to spot. Boult’s scrambled seam deliveries were too difficult to spot. England batsmen might have forgotten the basics of Test batting but this was World-class pace bowling.
Williamson barely had to move a fielder. Boult and Southee knew where they were bowling, what they were bowling and how well they were bowling.
Mark Richardson at the pitch report commented that the pitch would last five days. After less than two sessions of absolute mayhem, does the pitch need to last so many days? On day 5, school kids could well be on a trip to the meadows of Eden Park – the pitch, of course.
124 balls were all that New Zealand had to bowl. It would have been way lesser if Craig Overton hadn’t done a Jason Holder from no.9. A rampant 25 ball 33 saved England the blushes after they were 27/9 (read that again) at one point in time. 53.44% of runs were added by the last pair.
Eden Park gushed. Boult had six to his name. Southee four. England had 58. By dinner on day 1, Williamson had one more than England’s total. These 124 balls would go down into the history books for pink balls, despite knowing to balance out the contest between bat and ball, showed their true colours today.