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Alexlotl

Cricket Lovely Cricket - England in New Zealand

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Oops, despite this going on in my backyard, I've managed to forget to neglect to start a new thread until the Test series is upon us. The tests do mean one thing though... the return of The Ghost.

No, wait, they don't. He's not in the squad. Bugger.

So, England take both the Twenty20 and ODI series two games to one. Both series had two England wallopings and one close one where NZ crept home. Now we move onto the longer format, which in recent years has been NZ's weakest form of the game.

For England, the big question is whether to persist with Nick Compton in the opener's slot after his solid, but unexceptional tour of India, or whether to promote Root to open the batting with Cook, following his extraordinary run for England in all forms of the game. Presumably, if Compton was omitted, Bairstow would come back in at #6, giving him a chance to face some quality quick bowling and build on his promising performance against South Africa way back at Lords. Personally, I'd give Compton another crack at the top - Root has shown he can bat wherever, so let's have him fill the troubled #6 spot.

In the bowling ranks, Broad is back to match fitness and looked good during the short formats. Anderson is a shoo-in, and Finn has now surely cemented his test place. With Bresnan and Tremlett still crocked, we're probably looking at the reliable quartet of Anderson, Finn, Broad and Swann. Despite his superb showing in India, I can't see Monty getting a game in NZ's rather English conditions, especially with creditable part-time options of Root and Pietersen.

For New Zealand, it's all gone a bit pear shaped. Both their usual openers are gone - Guptill is crocked, after taking NZ over the line on one leg and two toes, and McCullum has (sensibly) decided to drop down the order to #5. They're bringing back eternal nearly-man Peter Fulton, AKA Two Meter Peter, and he'll be partnered by either Tom Latham or Hamish Rutherford, both promising youngish prospects. Taylor's back after his brief (justified) sulk after being stripped of the captaincy, and will join the pure class that is Kane Williamson, but drinky middle-order powerhouse Jesse Ryder has made himself unavailable, which is a real shame for the competitiveness of the series. Watch out for BJ Watling, NZ's latest Wicketkeeper Batsman - I think he's fricking great.

The bowling looks much better, at least in the pace department. Southee, who always feels a bit like a cut-price Stuart Broad, has been much more impressive in the last 12 months, and Bracewell and Boult have both been fantastic finds. It's possible NZ's own South African import, Neil Wagner, may also join the team to make a 4-man all-pace attack. Spin-wise, the only candidate is Bruce Martin, a 32-year old NZ domestic journeyman. Vettori is still crocked, although I'm not sure what Ronnie Hira has done wrong (or, for that matter, right).

Fun random bits:

There are four second-generation test cricketers in the two squads - Broad, Bairstow, Latham and Rutherford.

NZ have an embarassment of wicket keepers. Either in the squad, or competing to be in it are McCullum, Watling, Latham and Luke Ronchi, the former Australia ODI/T20 keeper who decided he'd have more luck being a Kiwi. With England potentially fielding both Prior and Bairstow, it could be a glove-fest out there.

Predictions:

3-0 England, sadly. Anderson to be man of the series with a redonkulous heap of wickets. NZ press to deservedly kick seven shades out of current management and cricket executive.

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So, England lost the warm up match against the NZ XI down at the ridiculously scenic Queenstown Events Center (read: field).

Some good batting from Cook, Bell, Root and Prior, but slim pickings from the rest. More worrying was the bowling, which showed how vulnerable we are without Anderson. Graham Onions, in particular, probably bowled himself out of international cricket, taking match figures of 213/1. Ouch.

That's not to do the Kiwi effort down. Rutherford has almost certainly booked an opening berth alongside Fulton, scoring 90 and 33. The Kiwi's South African quick, Neil Wagner, also bowled and batted himself into the test squad, with 4/98 and 2/56, plus a decent showing with the bat. My Kiwi pick for the series, BJ Watling, scored 66* and 89*.

The first test is Wednesday in Dunedin. Despite the warm-up match, I still can't find any native Kiwis here who think they're going to win. The weather down there should be sunny, but fresh (think England in early September), and the conditions generally a bit English.

Still, this may be a more interesting series than I'd anticipated.

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Even so, hard to see anything but an England win in the first Test. Will be interesting to see if Compton retains his place. I think he should keep his place for at least this series, it would be very harsh to discard him, but Root is certainly making a strong case for inclusion.

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Doug Bracewell, probably the Kiwis' best test bowler, is potentially out after cutting his foot while hosting a massive piss-up at his house last night.

It's like Jesse Ryder vs Toilet Window all over again. That'll be Wagner in the XI, then.

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Compton seems to be well-received by ex-pros, who generally seem to think that he has the temperament to succeed at this level. At 29 though, I'd like to see a younger option (but in fairness that's because I love stats and long careers). I think you're right though, Alex, he needs at least one century on this tour if he is going to be a serious candidate for the return series at home and then the Ashes.

I wonder about out bowling reserves though; Bresnan had poor SA and Indian tours, Woakes possibly isn't going to be good enough at this level, Onions started his test career really well but injuries and current form aren't doing him any favours and Broad needs a good series with both bat and ball, I think, lest he become a bit of a nearly-man. I remember when he was being touted as a proper all-rounder to go in at no.7 after we hammered Pakistan all those years ago - but his batting is too erratic (prone to giving his wicket away, rather than making bowlers work for it) and he looks miles away from fitting in there of late. I really would love him to have a great year though, hopefully this will be the start.

I also want Cookie to score a shed-load of runs, for Swann and Jimmy to take bundles of wickets, but also to see some thrilling 4/5 day tests; from reading anything about the respective teams you'd think this would be a 3-0 whitewash, with all games over within 3 days - but I also think Watling looks excellent so far, Southee could cause problems if he finds his line and NZ could certainly score runs - I guess it's really whether they have enough depth in their bowling to stop us scoring just enough more.

Anyway, I'm going to be watching as much of the first day's play tomorrow as I can before sleep consumes me - ah, the fun of having a week off work! - and I'm really looking forward to it. As much as I like the ODI a T20 games, Test matches will always be my first love.

Sky's transmission starts at 8pm UK time, but am I right in thinking that play will start around 9.30pm UK time?

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Yep, that's 10:30AM here in NZ. I'll be listening to the Radio Sport NZ feed, which should have a bit of Aggers inbetween the adverts for fertiliser, herbal willy pills and cheap mattresses. God, I miss the BBC sometimes.

Boozewell officially out, Wagner and Compton officially in. Weather looking a bit dubious.

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Game on!

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I know all the talk today is about the Man U/Real Madrid game tonight, but am I the only person who is far more excited about an England Test match tonight? And I absolutely adore football.

Anyway, I shall be following with interest. Without knowing the state of the pitch, based on those weather conditions I'm going to say England will want to bowl first and will knock NZ over fairly cheaply (<250).

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Aye, if we win the toss we should have a bowl. NZ's opening pair are untested, and a historical weak point, and assuming we back ourselves to bundle them out in a day, Thursday looks made for batting. I'm sure I read somewhere that the team batting second often racks up big scores at the University Oval, too.

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NZ win the toss, bowl. Big news is that Swann is out, with Monty bowling in his place. This fits in with comments in his Sun column about managing his elbow injury to ensure he can play all the matches against Aussie. It'll be interesting to see how Monty manages in less spin-friendly conditions.

NZ also picking a spinner, provincial journeyman Bruce Martin. Completely unknown quantity here.

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Gutted about the delay, but really enjoying the Sky chat whilst we wait.

However, Alec Stewart is starting to morph into Bruce Forsyth and it's very disturbing!

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This is why the next two Test nations should be the Morlocks and the Chuds so we can play Test matches underground and not get rain delays.

Also the Mole People.

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Swann out for the entire series - off to have fresh surgery on his elbow to remove bone fragments. Should be back for the home series against NZ.

Big opportunity for Monty. Helps that the Kiwis are quite a right-handed team, memory serves.

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Well, I'm getting a liberal ribbing at work today. 81/5 at lunch, and we have an unusually long tail, with Finn, Anderson and Panesar in 9, 10, Jack. Broad hasn't exactly set the world on fire with his batting lately, either.

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England are making a terrible mess of what is a rather benign pitch; too many loose shots mean we'll be starting the second innings with (probably) a large deficit. It's been pretty abject, really.

New Zealand have been excellent, though. They've bowled well and stifled the runs early on, taken good positions in the field and kept pressure up.

I think if we can get to 150 (ha!) and keep NZ to no more than 250 then we can save the game. But unless they feel like throwing their wickets away like we have been, I think they could easily be looking at 325+

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Yeah, the Kiwis have been decent - fair play to them. We were just awful <_< - probably down to massive over-confidence. I think I heard in the Sky commentary that we've not gone past 200 in our last four opening away test match games now.

Hopefully it'll serve as a massive kick up the arse!

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Haven't won an opening test in 13 tours since beating Bangladesh according to TMS podcast. I listened to the first hour and a half of play which was enough to tell you the total wasn't going to be very impressive. There is obviously something wrong with the preparation. Fair play to New Zealand for their performance. Interesting to see what happens in the first session tonight. England need something special.

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So another tough day in the field and New Zealand scoring at will all over the ground. Good to see Broad finally end his wicket-free patch and Anderson is class. But, once again, our batsmen failed to take advantage of an excellent batting-track and have been heavily punished. If I were McCullum I'd cut loose for the first hour of today's play then declare, giving them 2 days to bowl us out.

I think from England's point of view they need to bat the full 2 days to grab the draw. To think that even if we got to 450, that might only mean New Zealand need 150-200 to win in perhaps 40-50 overs and on that pitch and with New Zealand's potential to have a high scoring-rate I don't think they'd have any problems chasing anything down.

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It was saying on TMS last night that the groundsman expected the wicket to deteriorate on days 4 and 5. Apparently in the last two first class games, at this ground, the teams batting second in both amassed 550+ and 600+ respectively and then proceded to bowl the opposition out for an innings victory.

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It was saying on TMS last night that the groundsman expected the wicket to deteriorate on days 4 and 5. Apparently in the last two first class games, at this ground, the teams batting second in both amassed 550+ and 600+ respectively and then proceded to bowl the opposition out for an innings victory.

Interesting - Sky have been saying that according to locals they don't think the pitch will do very much. Guess the groundsman is better placed to proffer an opinion though.

Regardless, it doesn't look good for England.

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Anyone read the new Wisden quarterly, The Nightwatchman? It's advertised in the latest edition of The Blizzard, which I love, and if they are aiming for the same thing I may subscribe.

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Well, that was much more like it. Congrats to Compton on his maiden century.

Interesting to see Jimmy has seemingly lost his Nightwatchman role, too! May be because they thought they might need him to help hold together the unusually long tail we're sporting in this match.

So, do we bat all day tomorrow and take the draw, or declare at tea and have a crack at it?

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They should be happy with a draw sayin as their terrible batting performance in the first innings is the only thing that created any chance of this match not being a draw. Looks the groundsman was spoofing and the track continued to be flat and lifeless.

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