The first Test of the summer ended in an underwhelming draw, with England deciding not to attempt their target of 275 in 73 overs. The decision was less than popular, with former England captain Michael Vaughan particularly unimpressed:
Vaughan is wrong.
While I'd have loved to have seen England take on this chase, it was not a realistic goal.
The chase required 3.64 runs an over, which was way higher than anything else in this match.
New Zealand went at 3.08 for their 378 in the first innings, England were at 2.71 for the 275 in response. Then, New Zealand's second innings saw them score at 3.21, when making 169-6 declared.
And, even in this morning's session, with New Zealand batting toward a declaration, they did manage to go at 4.75 an over, in scoring 107-while losing four wickets!
A required rate of 3.64 is equivalent to batters needing a strike-rate of 60.66. For context, only five of the thirty individual innings went at above this strike-rate, with none of these innings seeing a batter face above forty balls!
England's required rate for this chase has been near impossible for this entire game!
The other key argument is that Dom Sibley and Rory Burns, having successfully got through the opening spells, ought to have then gone for it.
This is still nonsense!
England were 14/0 from the first ten, needing 259 from 65, with a rate of 4.18 needed. From there, they could have gone for it, and maybe got close.
But, having lost 4-29 in 13 overs in the first innings, with two middle order batters making ducks, England may have made a good start to a chase, but having come on the back of a middle order collapse, on a pitch that was offering variable bounce, against a very good bowling attack, England may well have lost that game.
England's top seven features James Bracey on debut, Dan Lawrence in his fifth Test, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, with one Test hundred apiece, and Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, who before this Test, had two Test hundreds each. Of course, there's Joe Root, who hasn't made a home Test hundred since the 2018 summer!
This is an inexperienced batting line-up, low on confidence, as we saw in the first innings.
And the New Zealand attack is lead by Tim Southee, third on their all-time list of Test wicket takers. He averaged 17.03 with the ball last year! Kyle Jamieson by the way, he has four five-fors in seven Tests! Oh, and Neil Wagner averaged 19.7 in 2019 and 2020!
The New Zealand attack is very good, and the ball was swinging massively, with uneven bounce
So, yeah, lets try and go at 3.64 an over, on a pitch that nobody has been able to consistently score at that rate on, with an inexperienced line-up that collapsed in the first innings, against one of the best bowling attacks in the world!
Some may say it isn't good enough. Fans are finally back in, and we treat them to this boring display.
But after years of moaning about England playing with good intent, but losing games, how would we have reacted if they'd gone for it, and then had to watch a top order batter try and save the game by batting 20 overs with the tail?
Given the questionable selections of guys like Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow in Tests, why are we moaning when Dom Sibley, our Test opener, when he does his job?
I'd rather we are boring and draw the game, than play with good intent, and lose! Especially when winning was never a realistic possibility!
This controversial conclusion came after what had been looking like an exciting Test. Debutant Devon Conway made a brilliant 200 for New Zealand, but a good fight-back from England with the ball saw New Zealand lose their last seven wickets for 90.
Mark Wood, who can struggle in England impressed with a great burst on day two. And there was a four-for for Ollie Robinson, but his debut will always be marred by the emergence of racist and sexist tweets from 2012 and 2013.
Robinson was better on the pitch with the bat as well, as England, who had been in a decent position on 111-2 at close on the second day, found themselves at 140-6 on day four. With the game hampered by day three's washout, England had to avoid the follow-on.
Robinson partnered with Burns though, with the opener, helped by Jimmy Anderson going on to make his third test hundred, 132, as England were bowled out for 275, with Tim Southee making the honours board with five wickets.
The day closed with New Zealand 62/2 from 30 overs, and they built to 169/6d, with another three wickets for Robinson, to set England the eventual target, which was survived, with Sibley finishing 60 not out.
There was slight concern over Stuart Broad, who took just his fourth wicket in four Tests this year for England.
I'd say this was unwarranted though, with CricViz showing he was -2.6 and -0.8 expected Wickets in the two innings-suggesting he bowled better than his eventual figures. Oh, and he averaged just 14.76 with the ball in 2020!
In the end, the day three washout ruined this Test. There were some good moments, and a draw is a relatively fair result.
To those moaning about England's approach, I simply say, that had they gone aggressive, collapsed and lost, you wouldn't stop moaning!