169th over: New Zealand 445-6 (Watling 141, Santner 55) Archer returns and his third ball nips away – Santner misses it by a fortnight. Maiden.
“Kia ora Daniel, from about an hour southwest of the venue,” emails Graeme Simpson. “Stop whinging about the pitch! The Aussies have a name for POMS like you, but we’re far too polite in NZ. Seriously, while Kiwis are batting very well, this might be one that eluded England. Some very dubious captaincy, yesterday…”
It’s fine for Tests to be played on flat decks – on any deck – but when there’s no pace either, it’s not ideal to watch. England made too few, mainly because they decided they’d mastered Test-match batting so no longer needed to attempt it.
168th over: New Zealand 445-6 (Watling 141, Santner 55) Santner plays forward to Curran and Buttler appeals enthusiastically, but that was a forward defensive. As punishment, four byes are then added to the total when the ball clips Santner’s thigh pad, and a single follows.
“I’m stuck on the Metropolitan line, desperate for a slash,” advises Matthew Salkeld. “The drip-drip of maidens and singles is driving me mad. Even TMS is on my case; Steven Finn is talking about aiming at dead flies in urinals. The universe hates me…”
I used to run ting on the Met back in the day. A severely underrated line and in my top three with Northern and Victoria.
167th over: New Zealand 440-6 (Watling 141, Santner 54) At what point do New Zealand go? They might skittle England because England get skittled, but given the state of the pitch, they need some time to force the win, and the lead is only 83. Anyhow, Stokes last delivery is actually not bad, fullish, outside off, and Watling strokes four through cover. The partnership is now 124.
166th over: New Zealand 436-6 (Watling 137, Santner 54) What do England do about the captaincy situation? They can let it drift because who are the other options, but how long will Root be given to improve? Yes the pitch is flat, yes the Kookaburra is tame, but finding a way in those circumstances is part of his job. It’s hard to make the case that he does that aspect of it well enough, and his batting has gone downhill too. Watling flicks three to midwicket, the only runs from the over.
165th over: New Zealand 433-6 (Watling 134, Santner 54) It’s Stokes nor Archer from the other end; I’m not sure about that. Anyway, he gets one to leap off a fullish length and Watling swivels out of the road. A single follows, then Santner breaks the wrists to drive square for two more.
164th over: New Zealand 430-6 (Watling 133, Santner 52) Curran takes the (third) new orb and Santner drives it to cover; they run two. Then he leans forward and gets a leading edge, naturally it drops shy of midwicket. This pitch is cancelled. Am I saying it right?
163rd over: New Zealand 428-6 (Watling 133, Santner 50) After a single apiece, Santner gets one to extra, giving him a fifty; he’d’ve took it. The new ball is now available; will England take it? On the one hand, the spinners have livened things a little and it’s easier to hit when it’s quicker; on the other, something has to change else time will stop and leave us marooned here forever.
“Just when you think the session can’t get any worse,” tweets @AsNaturalAsRain, “over on TMS Aggers has started bantering about the local Pinot Noir.”
I do hope it’s golf next.
162nd over: New Zealand 425-6 (Watling 132, Santner 48) Leach sends down a maiden, and this is brilliant from New Zealand, you have to say – England must be absolutely hating this. I think that’s the best way of looking at this.
161st over: New Zealand 425-6 (Watling 132, Santner 48) Root drops short, so Santner cuts away for four. And then, after a dot, Root gets one into Santner’s bat pad. There’s a huge appeal but Umpire Oxenford says no and England can’t go upstairs. I think that was missing leg as it goes – it hit the pad pretty much in front of leg.
160th over: New Zealand 420-6 (Watling 131, Santner 44) This pitch is flatter than a Dutchman’s fart. Watling plays Leach’s first ball to mid on and they sprint one – a direct hit and they’re out, but we don’t deserve the relief of a wicket. But we do get a four, when Santner dances down to belt through backward point; Leach responds well, turning one away from the bat.
159th over: New Zealand 415-6 (Watling 130, Santner 40) Root brings himself on to bowl at the end with the cracks – as you would. Santner misses his fifth ball, making room for a cover drive, and back round we go following another maiden. “Slow change please, lads.”
158th over: New Zealand 415-6 (Watling 130, Santner 40) In commentary they think England should’ve persevered with the short stuff against Santner – they’ve been full today – but now Leach is coming on. Apparently the more prominent cracks are at the end he’s bowling from, not to; of course they are. Anyway he decides to come from over, then he goes around, and Watling drives his penultimate ball to mid off where Root dives to stop; they run one, then another from the final delivery. This is the kind of session you get when you’re trying to introduce your child or significant other to the game. “Yeah, it’s well good, I promise…”
157th over: New Zealand 413-6 (Watling 129, Santner 39) One for the purists, this session; obviously if it wasn’t this, I’d be in the discotheque. Stokes tries a bouncer at Santner, then goes dead wide on the crease and beats the bat but not the thigh pad. Maiden and drinks, following 19 runs in 16 overs. Make mine a quintuple.
156th over: New Zealand 413-6 (Watling 129, Santner 39) Curran opens with a bouncer that’s aeons from anywhere; wide ball. A single follows, and New Zealand lead by 60.
155th over: New Zealand 411-6 (Watling 129, Santner 38) Watling plays down to cover and Broad can’t collect cleanly, so they snaffle a single. So Stokes goes around to Santner and immediately worries him with a bumper. that he only just evades. Another follows, and this time a bit of bat sends to backward square and they add one more.
“Since we’re in NZ and talking about people’s ages,” says Ian Forth, “it’s worth pointing out that Bilbo Baggins got to 131 – and beat the Old Took – by the time he left Middle Earth. Watling’s next landmark.”
Long way to Abraham – 175 – who also died in this week’s portion. Perhaps we should compile a list of names for all the various scores, like how in darts – and now in cricket – a 138 is the Deller.
154th over: New Zealand 409-6 (Watling 128, Santner 37) Curran takes over from Archer. I don’t know why, but I always picture him as a scrapping kid with a comedy angry face. Like Stokes, he has the gift of timing, but he’s already done his job innings – he’s not there to bowl sides out, he’s there to contribute big wickets. Anyway, Santner takes one from his first ball, then he beats Watling with one that goes across him and keeps going. A further single follows.
153rd over: New Zealand 407-6 (Watling 127, Santner 36) Stokes takes the ball from Broad and, presumably, the plea to make something happen. And he does, Watling smacking him for four through cover; that’s a lovely shot. I thought I’d never see one again. Watling is now on 127, the age that Sarah, of bible fame, was when she died. Ironically, in synagogue today we read the story of that happening, which is ironic.
“Are stumps still made of the traditional ash wood?” asks Andrew Goudie. “If so, why paint them such a bright white?”
They look better on telly?
152nd over: New Zealand 403-6 (Watling 123, Santner 36) I’m not sure I’ve seen Archer look so neutered. He’s bowling pretty full now, for all the good it’s doing him; I cannot wait for when the pitch turns into pebble dashing after the roller goes on between innings. Maiden, Archer’s fifth straight.
151st over: New Zealand 403-6 (Watling 123, Santner 36) I doubt England’s bowlers are enjoying this much either, basically being told that they’re not much threat freshest, and they’re absolutely getting it later on. After four more dots, Santner turns a single away into the on side.
150th over: New Zealand 402-6 (Watling 123, Santner 35) There is a lot of time left in the game – even if New Zealand bat until tea, they’ll have enough time to finish the job. Meantime, another maiden from Archer, and a battle of will for the batsmen, who will want this to end but are absolutely committed to not chucking it away.
149th over: New Zealand 402-6 (Watling 123, Santner 35) Two hilarious and zany funsters are now shouting their way through a song extremely loudly. Oh, them. Them. Broad looks loose now, and a full one hauls Santner forward; he edges, but the ball expires well before slip. AND HAVE A LOOK! After 35 consecutive dots, Santner slashes and gets four! What are we seeing?!
“I think what Root and his bowlers may be overlooking is the straightforward approach favoured by Neville Cardus over 100 years ago,” elucidates Kim Thonger. “‘I am not ashamed to confess that I seldom hesitated, as soon as a batsman came to the crease, to let him have a quick one bang in the penis; after which a quick, simple straight one would invariably remove him from the scene’.”
148th over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) Archer flings down a yorker that Watling misses, and now the crowd are singing his name to I Just Can’t Get Enough, which is ironic because I’ve already had more than enough. England have scored a double hat-trick.
“Isn’t it a bit previous to be deciding Archer’s batting prowess?” asks John Starbuck. “He’s only had a few test innings and should be given at least a full series before people decide his best position.
PS We had apple & cinnamon buns with cream for dessert today, so naturally a lot of Calvados was taken, which is why I may not last much longer for this Test. Still, catch up tomorrow with all the wit, eh?”
Once again, I’m not quite sure where the irony starts and ends. But no, I think it’s fair to assess Archer on what we’ve seen, and better judges than me think it’s not a whole lot.
147th over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) And there we are! Broad finds some movement off the pitch, away from Santner; these cracks are very morish. And it’s there! Five maidens on the bounce, which tells us a wicket is due if that adage from when England were good is to be believed.
146th over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) More dots, three of them, then the point: Watling bunts, sets off, is sent back, and there are chances at either end but the throw misses. That’s four maidens on the spin, but England missed the chance they created.
145th over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) Broad’s bowling full today, but there’s still nothing happening for him. I’m sure, though, that he’s inspired by the “Come on Broady”s from the crowd. I don’t know how people even have time to shout at the cricket, when the mouth is fully booked for eating and drinking. Maiden.
144th over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) Watling looks extremely secure out there; maybe it’s time for some rf from around the wicket. In the meantime, he sees away a second consecutive maiden.
“I’ve been wondering what ‘Mount Maunganui’ sounds like for two days,” tweets Gary Naylor, “and I think I have it. It’s what a zookeeper might shout at a reluctant panda.”
I was thinking more what a taxonomist might say following the death of his pet hamster.
143rd over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) Broad opens up from the other end; I wonder what his plan is. Conditions aren’t offering him much, but England desperately need wickets, so containment isn’t loads of use unless it leads to a wicket. Maiden.
“Super Furry Animals for the win, always,” reckons Sean Clayton, “ (and Arab Strap, although a bit post-Britpop).”
I saw SFA recentlyish, playing Fuzzy Logic and Radiator. I didn’t love the former at the time and the jaded crowd of middle-aged morons didn’t properly get into that, but the latter was every bit as magic then as it was at the time.
142nd over: New Zealand 398-6 (Watling 123, Santner 31) This time Archer does have the ball but nothing matters because nothing can matter ever again, because a group of quality blokes have gathered to sing Jerusalem then applaud themselves. Meanwhile, away from the action out in the middle, Watling slashes and edges, adding four through gully. These are the only runs of the over, but I’m struggling to type as I’m still applauding Jersualem.
“Oh come on,” says Simon Sylvester. “British Sea Power! National treasures one and all.”
I thought that’d been stolen by the EU.
It looks extremely pleasant round Mount Maunganui way. On the other hand, bumble is wearing a cream blazer and light brown slacks, so actually I’m better off in a box room in north London.
Ben Stokes tells Ian Ward that keeping New Zealand in check on a flat pitch was a good effort yesterday – they might’ve got away but they didn’t. He says Curran’s fuller length got the ball moving in the air and troubled De Grandhomme, and explains that they thought they most likely route to wickets was that movement through the air, which is why Curran bowled ahead of Archer. Ward doesn’t ask him if he thinks it worked.
“Evening Daniel,” emails Finbar Anslow. “From sodden Piedmont, I’ve been doing a bit of research about tailenders’ batting order; obviously runs are important but more so the ability to stick around. Either way if we take the Ashes averages I reckon it should be Leach (Ave 13.5 runs. Ave 40.7 balls faced) before Broad (Ave 12.2 runs. Ave 27 balls faced) and finally Archer (Ave 6.8 runs. Ave 12.7 balls faced) or is there some other determining factor I’m missing here?”
Piedmont! I feel like I’m back in History A-level, albeit considerably less state-altered. It might depend on circumstances – if you want someone to have a swing, Leach comes in last. But if you want someone to stick about while the batsman tries to bat, it makes no sense to have him below Archer, whose batting is not all that much like batting.
BJ Watling tells Ian Ward that England’s bowlers “asked some pretty good questions of us”, and that he had to work hard for his runs. He says that there are some crack appearing in the pitch and it wasn’t easy to score runs. Ward then tells him that his team-mates say he’s useless at 400-4, but great at 140-6 – I can scarcely conceive of a greater compliment.
“It’s lacking a bit of spark this Test,” tweets Michael Burgess. “Now, if it was part of the World Test Championship 19-21, it would be absolutely gripping.”
I’m not sure where the irony lies here, if anywhere. I agree that every series should be part of it, but I enjoyed days 1 and 2. Yesterday was dry, but it’s set up today which has plenty of potential.
How many of the Britpop bands have lasted better than Supergrass, and how many guitar bands do we have now who are anywhere near as good as them? Or, put another way: I am old.
Athers doesn’t get why Archer didn’t start the day with the ball yesterday, but he also calls out England’s lethargy.
Where do England find a spinner who can take first-innings wickets? I know this is no revelation, but the more I think about it, the more Graeme Swann was the key man in the side who got to world number 1. Quality spinners, especially in England, are so hard to find.
I suppose it’s possible that England mop up the last four New Zealand wickets early this morning, then collapse slightly earlier than scheduled.
If you’re not absolutely buzzing for an England batting collapse that starts around mid afternoon and continues for eternity, I’m sorry but I can’t help you. Either you want England to lose, in which gezundheit, or you want England to win, in which case you’re eager to be gripped by a heady mix of nostalgia, mirth and self-hate. It’s going to be absolutely glorious.
The last two days have shown the absolute worst of Joe Root’s England. They still struggle to make enough runs, and they still struggle to get wickets on flat tracks. As for the captain, he just doesn’t have the feel for the game that a captain should have, so when things didn’t go well – partly because of the aforementioned problem – he doesn’t have the smarts to fiddle them back his way. Quite why Archer didn’t bowl first up I’ve don’t know, and quite why Stokes bowled so little, no one knows.
So, if they’re to turn this match around, England need quick wickets, then quick runs. Alternatively, New Zealand bat until tea and we’re all done by lunch tomorrow.
Play: 11am local time, 10m GMT.