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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taylor and bowlers put New Zealand on top

England 4/152 ( A Strauss 60) trail New Zealand 381 (R Taylor 154, J How 64, K Mills 57, J Anderson 4/118) by 229 runs on first innings with 6 wickets in hand: Day 2 Second Test at Old Trafford, Manchester.

I wasn't able to watch as much of the day's play as I'd have liked because Foxtel gave its cricket following subscribers short measure, delaying the telecast until the lunch interval, when it took the Sky Sports relay, which consisted largely of lunchtime chitchat, direct instead of showing more of the actual play.

This means that Australian viewers missed the session in which New Zealand scored 2/120 in 27 overs, Ross Taylor reached his century, and the team consequently established its ascendancy. Given that Daniel Flynn didn't return to the crease after his injury the previous day this was a considerable feat.

Grumbling aside, the last two sessions (of which I only watched the first as the second overlapped with the Aust - WI match telecast) also had their moments of interest, without changing the overall situation much. Taylor's 154/176b (17x4, 5 x 6) was, as these stats suggest, aggressive in intent and has caused a rethink of the strength of the NZ batting, while Kyle Mills's 57/78b (7x4, 1 x6)
has caused a rethink of its depth.

I am looking forward to watching more of the game tonight.


If you'd like more about the day's play, try this report from"> Simon Wilde at Times Online He makes some good points, but his prediction of a potential England total of 400 now looks even more fanciful than it must have done at the time (where was the sub-editor?):

England can still chase the dream of winning this match. With Andrew Strauss providing solidity at the top of the order, England passed 100 for the loss of only one wicket and on a good batting surface can aim to finally top 400 against a New Zealand attack as dependent on the swinging ball for success as their own.

The ball has stubbornly not swung here. Old Trafford pitches tend to last well too, which means England should not unduly fear batting last. Australia held out for a draw here in 2005 and last year West Indies were dismissed for 394 in the fourth innings, having been set 455 to win.

Their first task is to satisfy Michael Vaughan’s demand that two batsmen score centuries in the first innings as the basis for a commanding total and Strauss’s dismissal for 60 - to a fine catch by Brendon McCullum diving onto his bruised left arm - set back that aim considerably.

England’s meagre tempo of less than three runs per over did not suggest a team charging for the victory line; nor did it meet Vaughan’s preseries claim that we would see more confident batting from his team now that they had a series win behind them. They remain a nervous, introspective batting unit. By the close, England had lost four wickets, with Vaughan, Alastair Cook and nightwatchman Ryan Sidebottom also falling. They resume today on 152 for four.

England’s shabby performance in the field confirmed two things. One is that Vaughan was right when he said before the series that a four-man attack would only work if the four bowlers were operating to a high level. When he was talking, Vaughan was thinking of Flintoff as among his quartet but here, without his most dependable bowler, Vaughan struggled to maintain order.

England’s captain had conceded that four bowlers might struggle if they were required to bowl first and Monty Panesar, his spinner, was working with an untrammelled surface. Panesar had made the occasional ball turn on the first day, but his influence remained marginal, as figures of one for 101 from 22 overs suggest. He did, though, account for the key wicket of McCullum.

The second view that was upheld was that James Anderson is not a bowler who can be trusted at Test match level. If the ball swings, he can be dangerous, if it does not he is a needless luxury. In a recent interview, he gave the game away when he said that he had to make sure he did not panic if his rhythm eluded him. Anderson, who has spent more of his England career panicking than playing well, is the new Mark Ram-prakash. Yesterday his panic extended to his fielding as he misjudged a catch off a skyer off Jacob Oram at deep mid-off.

As chance had it, Anderson finished with four of the seven wickets that fell to bowlers, but he was flattered by such a return. Had Anderson not cleaned up the tail, with three wickets in his last four overs, his figures would have fully betrayed his profligacy. He went at almost six runs an over, a scandalous rate given the bounce at his disposal, but Anderson rarely asserts the kind of control that a Glenn McGrath or Shaun Pollock would regard as a base requirement.

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