‘Typical me, typical me, typical me I started something… and now I’m not too sure’
Let’s pretend that the last two series’ combine to make a five-Test mega series. If we do this, then it’s safe to state that for three and three-quarters of this contest, New Zealand were arguably the strongest team: they managed to dominate England in two rain shortened Tests at home (admittedly the second Test’s weather disruptions favoured the home side) and were a camera instillation away from prying Matt Prior from the crease, and completing an historic victory.
At Lord’s, an hour from lunch on the fourth day, they faced a steep and daunting chase in the conditions, but if one had offered a fourth innings chase of 239 for a Test victory at Lord’s, I’m sure McCullum and co will have sold their souls to whatever Satan you believe in. This however is where everything begins to blur and stutter from a Kiwi perspective.
It is quite rare for a team to be bowled out for 68 and for the press to almost ‘let it be’. Such was England’s (and Stuart Broad’s) mastery of the conditions, that most viewers probably felt the quality was too high for New Zealand: save that for the Ashes please boys…
As condescending as this sounds, it isn’t too unkind, as New Zealand managed over 100 runs more at Headingly and their batting in that match was enough to send Richard Hadlee into eruptions of hyperbole (I assume) about the ‘bottle’ displayed the previous week in North London. The fifth (or second, to normal humans, or rather non-cricket writers) Test was a bridge too far (great film) for the boys in black.
Bruce Martin and BJ-less how could they even expect to compete against the conservative juggernaut of Alastair Cook and his ‘South Africa in the mid-90s’-esque brand of captaincy? Brendon McCullum, by then keeping, batting, captaining, cooking and driving for the side, just couldn’t provide the Christ-like magic everyone has grown to expect from him in the last few months.
New Zealand have learnt a lot about themselves in the last three months: from the staggering 1-2 away ODI victory in South Africa following the most galling of Test defeats, to almost snatching a Test Series away from the number two Test team in the World. So many positives have come, despite the close calls and heavy defeats. Brendan McCullum – sarky comments aside – has proven himself an adept leader of men and an innovative, galvanising influence on the field; Kane Williamson continues to impress with his absolutely lovely technique, he can’t be far from setting the international stage alight; Ross Taylor’s brace of half-centuries hints at a happier mind-set and a seam attack that is perhaps the third best in Test cricket at the moment (this with the talents of Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne ripening in the Plunkett Shield year-by-year) all point toward a bright few years.
Shame they couldn’t finish the job though.
‘Typical me, typical me, typical me….’.
* I’m doing my utmost to include as many topless male cricketers in my writing as possible. No, ‘KP’ would be too easy.