England on the verge of defeat as Neil Wagner turns the screw for New Zealand

England on the verge of defeat as Neil Wagner turns the screw for New Zealand

Bataclysm. Batastrophe. There is simply not a hole this English formation cannot compete in. At the very least, they’re experts at turning a crack into a crater, a small cut into a full-fledged sinkhole. And one sunny Saturday afternoon in Edgbaston, they put on gloves, strapped on pads, and started digging.

New Zealand, as far as they dominated the match, led by a wise 85 at the end of their first innings. Somehow, beyond all reason, England were in this game: all they needed was a decent opening partnership and they would be on the right track. The heats break was the most enjoyable 10 minutes of the day for them, a time when the sun was shining, everything was calm and the future was full of potential.

Then England sent its diggers. Rory Burns might as well have come out with a shovel, cutting off the second delivery of the handles on the second slide where Tom Latham took a great low grip (tourist slide being one area where they significantly outperformed their hosts) . Dom Sibley followed soon after, edging out Matt Henry against Daryl Mitchell, another catch in the cord. Zak Crawley’s score of 17 was more than eight times the best of his previous three shots in the series and contained a few nice shots – Henry’s best forehand – but ended with a very clear lbw, which at least makes a change from the usual wild drives and heavy slashes.

Ollie Pope has been England’s only truly consistent batsman – four innings in this series with a low of 19 and a high of 23, set here before he was trapped by Neil Wagner. Take the 23-year-old’s races off and in this series the top six Englishmen have nine single-digit scores versus 10 double-digits. James Bracey, the object of wild ironic cheers when he won his first test in his third inning, gloved the ball in his stumps as he attempted to knock down Ajaz Patel. And finally, Joe Root, the only drummer on the team of an undisputed class, got stuck in a rut and couldn’t find his way, eventually putting Patel in the lead in Tom Blundell’s gloves for a thorough 61-ball 11.

Bowling, especially from Henry and the brilliantly expressive and engaged Wagner, was good. But on flat ground it was disasters of England’s own initiative, a point proven by Mark Wood, who scored the best score with a carefree 29 before pulling a draw that ultimately fell to Blundell . England clung to the end at 122 for nine, ahead by 37 points.

The strike at batting was of course just one side of a true emerald-cut chess diamond for England in this game. Badly as they were beating in the early evening, they were almost as poor with the ball in the morning, a case of agony and agony in fact.

A disheartened Joe Root walks away after being sacked against New Zealand. Photograph: Rui Vieira / AP

There was a moment, an hour in the day, when the call for drinks seemed to take the English dressing room completely by surprise, and it summed up their efforts in the opening session that they didn’t even have. could organize their drinks. From the start, the bowling was ordinary, the fielding poor, the wicket sometimes chaotic. New Zealand scored 63 points in 13-and-a-half overs before drinks, with Ross Taylor, abandoned by substitute outfielder Sam Billings on the way, having 34 with partner Henry Nicholls, narrowly edging the extras, 16- 13. Three balls later, halfway through Olly Stone’s first day, Taylor was out.

The 37-year-old played beautifully on the third morning of the game, wisely taking the short ball (except for that drop) and becoming the fifth batsman in this game to reach 80. None, oddly enough, reached 83. Stone’s reaction after Taylor joined Bracey was that of a fiery player, aware that none of the other English bowlers were making any progress, it was a day he could make his own. Three bullets later he should have gotten another one, but Bracey dove past the bullet, which hit his wrist on the way down.

Prior to the start of the series, once Ben Foakes was ruled out with an injury for letting him hold the gloves, Bracey admitted that he “didn’t really have on my radar to be there as a guardian ”. It’s not the only time his radar is faulty. He’s a young batsman who is still learning the wicket-keeper craft, a once-square peg driven into a round hole before anyone has completely carved out the corners, and knocks out of position as they do so. But her first experience in the Test spotlight was unpleasantly revealing.

Nicholls had come out shortly before lunch, punched on the helmet by a bouncer from Wood before, after a change of headgear and once again from the physiotherapist, nicking the next ball. Despite this, New Zealand entered the break with a 23-point lead and five wickets in hand, threatening to put England out of the game.

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But over the next 90 minutes, with no individual bowler setting up a Sustained Excellence spell, the wickets kept falling. Each of the English setters got at least one, with Daryl Mitchell shooting directly at Crawley, the English outfielder’s choice, off Stone. Jimmy Anderson knocked down Wagner, Wood trapped Henry lbw and Stuart Broad cleaned up the last two, Patel being the last man after an entertaining 27 of 21 delivery partnership with Trent Boult.

England were back in the game. The sun was shining, everything was calm and the future was full of potential. What could go wrong?


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