by Roger Childs

How the mighty have fallen

!2 months ago in England New Zealand beat India to claim the title of world test champions. This week they reflect on losing 0-3 to England in a series where they had chances of winning each test. For example in the second test in Nottingham, they batted first and scored 553 – a very good total in anyone’s book – but ended up losing the match by five wickets.

Then in the third test have made 329 and with superb bowling by Boult they had the English reeling at 6/55. Danger men Root and Stokes were in the pavilion and a very handy first innings lead beckoned for the Kiwis. But they were one top bowler short and the team took the foot off the English throat and a 241 run partnership between Jonny Bairstow (162) and Jamie Overton (97) gave the home side the initiative.

A coaching revolution

Eyebrows were raised in both New Zealand and England when former opener and captain of the Black Caps, Brendan McCullum was appointed coach of the English team. It has proved to be a master stroke. McCullum was well known for his aggressive batting at the top of the New Zealand order and his positive “go for it” attitude as captain. There is something unnerving for opening pace bowlers when the batsmen at the other end comes charging down the wicket and hits you into the stand. More often than not the Baz approach paid off. 

Certainly for the England team in 2022 McCullum has been a breath of fresh air and he has instilled in the players that element of risk-taking needed to win, sometimes against the odds. His impact was especially evident in the batting of Jonny Bairstow who hit aggressive centuries in the second and third tests. 

Captain Joe Root got into the spirit of things with positive leadership on the field and after the humiliation of the 4-0 drubbing in the 2021–2022 Ashes series against Australia he was delighted to be leading a winning team. His batting also improved and his two centuries contributed to his award of “man of the series”.

Ajaz (Patel) is our number one spinner. –Captain Kane Williamson

Whereas New Zealand was a bowler short in the third test and should have played Patel, McCullum picked slow left-armer Jack Leach in the England team and the spinner proceeded to take five wickets in each innings. (Cricket fans will recall that Patel took all 10 wickets in India’s second innings late last year. Only two other players in the history of the game have achieved the feat.)

Out-played and out-coached

The Black Caps did have some bad luck. Speedster Kyle Jamieson took six wickets at an average of 27.50 if the first test before getting injured. Then in the second test skipper Kane Williamson couldn’t play because of covid. But the coach and captain did not do the best job in filling the gaps. Instead of playing the versatile Neil Wagner in the second test Matt Henry was preferred. He was hit all the round the park often because he bowled too short and wide. He ended up with just two wickets at an average of 97.50!

Unfortunately the often reliable Black Caps top order was out of form. Opener Tom Latham only got one good score – in the second innings of the Leeds test. Will Young, Kane Williamson, Devon Conway and Henry Nicholls also did not fire consistently. 

However two players down the order were outstanding and had a number of excellent partnerships.

  • Daryl Mitchell, son of the former All Black coach John Mitchell, scored 538 runs at an average of 107.60. (The highest aggregate and average in either team.)
  • Tom Blundell netted 383 for an average of 76.60.

As for the Black Caps Caps bowlers, Trent Boult was head and shoulders above the rest and took 16 wickets for 28.93.

Looking ahead it might time for the Black Caps to get a new coach. Mc Cullum showed what a new broom could do for the English.