England’s winless show away from home continues.
It has been a terrible couple of years for England in Test cricket. From being embarrassed in Bangladesh to losing mercilessly at the hands of the Australians in the Ashes, Joe Root and co have had little to celebrate about.
Their last Test win away from the comforts of the drizzly English weather dates back to 2016 when they beat Bangladesh at Chittagong only to lose at Dhaka and concede a shared result in the series.
To trace back to their last series win is a further exercise. It came three years ago in South Africa when they hammered down the Proteas in the Rainbow Nation. That in itself was their first win outside home since 2012.
|Eng vs SL||SL||2012||Draw|
|Eng vs Ind||IND||2012||England|
|Eng vs NZ||NZ||2013||Draw|
|Eng vs Aus||AUS||2013||Australia|
|Eng vs WI||WI||2015||Draw|
|Eng vs SA||SA||2015||England|
|Eng vs Ban||BAN||2016||Draw|
|Eng vs Ind||IND||2016||India|
|Eng vs Aus||AUS||2017||Australia|
|Eng vs NZ||NZ||2018||NZ|
Run through the list of England’s away campaigns and you get a fair idea of where they stand. The New Zealand tour of 2018 was supposed to be different.
England had been blanked by Australia in the Ashes and sorely needed a boost. The return of Ben Stokes had seemingly given the much needed oomph to their middle-order. James Vince and Mark Stoneman were expected to overturn their Ashes fortunes here in bucolic New Zealand.
Yet, like in the Ashes, they teased to shine without really excelling while Trent Boult and Tim Southee reduced them to ashes on the first day of the series at Eden Park.
In 124 balls on day 1 of the first Test, England had surrendered the first Test. At one point they were reduced to 27/9 and ran the risk of succumbing to one of the lowest Test totals. Craig Overton’s adventurous batting saved them a few blushes, though by not much. At 58, England’s chances had already been wiped under the carpet.
“I thought we made a lot of mistakes today with our footwork,” Bayliss said. “The ball was swinging a little bit but when the ball’s full, it’s as simple as it gets, you’ve got to play forward. A lot of our guys were out today from behind the crease to fairly full balls.”
“We’ve been on the other side of scores like that and it’s euphoria. This is the opposite,” Bayliss added possibly referring in particular to the Trent Bridge Test where Stuart Broad devoured the Aussies.
But like Boult later revealed, there wasn’t too much swing or seam on offer. CricViz proved that swing was less than half the average swing at that Test in Trent Bridge in 2015.
“In all honesty, I don’t think it swung that much. The cliche of it just doing enough is what happened. It was nice to see a couple of nicks carry through but to disturb the woodwork, always a nice feeling as well,” Boult said after his mesmerising spell.
Boult’s statement was further emphasized when New Zealand went on to rack up nearly 500 runs. Neil Wagner and Todd Astle then confounded the English with contrasting skills – bounce and spin – both of which has been England’s nemesis in recent times.
At the beginning of day 5 of the second Test, it seemed like England had learned their lessons. They had out batted New Zealand and James Anderson and Broad bowled like Boult and Southee although a counter-attacking stand resurrected New Zealand from 36/5. Early morning on the final day, Broad sent back Raval and Williamson of the first two balls of the day to revive England’s hopes after 23 fruitless overs against the openers at the fag end of day 4.
Then wickets fell in clusters and before you knew it England were well on their way to win an away Test for the first time in two years. Surely, with Colin de Grandhomme back in the hut after another one of his cameos, England would win this. How wrong were we!
de Grandhomme, Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner battled 362 balls combined. Sodhi stroked a half-century gritting it out there. Wagner played out a stunning 103 balls for 7 runs. England had no answers.
“Threw everything at NZ, very proud as a group and how we went about it, fair play to NZ. Bar that first innings [in Auckland] it has been very close, very frustrating that we let ourselves down. We’ve played some good cricket and showed what we’re about,” Joe Root commented at the post match presentation ceremony.
However, a quick scan through facts and you see that despite dominating close to 14 sessions in the Test, England lacked the zing when they needed it. They made similar mistakes, repeated mistakes and paid the price. Like Bayliss said after their sorry collapse, “someone sneezes and the rest of the guys catch a cold don’t they?”
Take your medicines, England!