New Zealand payback!
Talking of the purest form of cricket, Test cricket, it was even for both, batsmen and bowlers, at its early days. They say the only thing which is constant is “change.” The scenario in cricket went on to change so drastically that, if you talk about the game today, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that it has become more of a batsman’s game. With the new rules and regulations only testify the unfair treatment for the bowlers but then again, everything has been accepted long before so complaining about it is pointless.
However, sometimes cricket witnesses rare instances that end up defining the beauty of Test cricket even more. One such took place at Auckland on Thursday.
It was the first day of the opening Test between New Zealand and England. In their maiden pink ball Test at home, Kane Williamson won the toss and put the tourists to bat first. The BlackCaps, apparently, had decided to chose to bowl first if they won the toss well before the toss took place at the Eden Park as they thought the pitch did not have a lot to offer the batsmen and that exactly happened. England’s journey that began from Trent Boult’s first delivery of the day in the innings and ended on the 124th and final ball was crushing and rather catastrophic.
Boult and Tim Southee went on to become the fifth bowling duo in the last 25 years to skittle out an entire opposition in a Test innings. Co-incidentally, the last pair to do so was Stuart Broad and James Anderson against New Zealand at the Lord’s in 2013. Test cricket usually brings along aggression, intensity and lays down a battlefield on a cricket ground. If Test cricket could be cruel to a side then it does offer the same side to return the favour to settle scores. If England had bundled New Zealand out for 68 runs in 2013, the opening day of the 2018 Eden Park Test watched New Zealand dismissed the same England side with even better results – England were bowled out for 58 runs!
It began when Auckland was spread with a very pleasant weather, cloudy skies above the Eden Park and the Boult took his first run with the pink ball. The conditions did not matter a lot because, irrespective of the conditions, facing a swing bowler is a challenge in itself. Especially the one who is fast, accurate and smartly makes full use of the width of the crease. These characteristics define Boult better than anyone else.
The first one to go was Alastair Cook; he received an inside edge that was comfortably caught by the second slip. Joe Root, who had finally agreed to bat at his not-so-favoruite position of No. 3 was bowled through a huge gap between bat and pad. The late movement did the trick for Boult who had two wickets in two back-to-back overs. England were 6 for 2. On the first ball of his very next over, Boult removed David Malan. The latter became the victim of the movement and late swing before BJ Watling dived in front of the first slip to finish the job.
While Boult was on fire on one end, he was well supported by his long-time opening partner, Southee. With his slight change in line, length and pace, Southee extracted a few wickets from his side. He was the next wicket-taker when he removed opener Mark Stoneman, who edged an out-swinger to the keeper. Since Malan’s wicket in the ninth over, New Zealand removed a batsman every over until the 14th over. It meant England lost six wickets in six overs. Malan’s wicket was followed the fall of Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali to Boult and Southee (two each).
These two went on to strike one after the other and never gave a chance to their skipper to think of a third bowler. It was England’s No. 9 batsman, Criag Overton, who saved them from a bigger embarrassment. His resilient 25-ball 33 ensured England didn’t fall to their lowest total ever – 45 all out in 1887.
The revenge was taken in a sweetest-ever way. Five years back at the iconic Lord’s, the duo of Broad and Anderson had given the BlackCaps a similar treatment. Going into the fourth day, New Zealand had begun the final innings and they had to chase down a target of 239 runs. In 135 balls, Broad and Anderson ripped apart the BlackCaps to gift their side a 170-run win in the Test. While Broad grabbed seven wickets in 11 overs, Anderson had two in 11.3 overs as New Zealand succumbed for the 10th lowest score in a Lord’s Test.
Coming back to 2018, England were bowled out for 58 runs and by the stumps of the opening day at Eden Park, New Zealand had 175 runs on the board for the loss of three wickets. Only a victory in the Test can complete the half-cooked revenge for the BlackCaps.