England show character to win series
Napier: day five of third Test - Outrageous hitting by Tim Southee - the 19-year-old New Zealand debutant – damaged bowling figures and delayed England’s victory, but it didn’t dampen their celebrations.
To come back from 1-0 down in a three Test series is always a tall order.
England owe as much to the character of the players and the boldness of the selectors as they do to the Wellington groundsman who defied Daniel Vettori’s orders and prepared a pitch that suited the tourists.
Without that, and Tim Ambrose’s fighting hundred there, the comeback might never have happened.
On the plus side of the tour, Ryan Sidebottom emerged as the difference between the bowling attacks of both sides, taking 24 wickets in the series...
Always hostile and accurate, he is enjoying a remarkable year and would now be the first bowler’s name on England’s team list.
Ambrose kept wicket tidily to go with his century and fifty. Wicket-keepers will always make mistakes – Brendon McCullum had a dreadful series behind the stumps but no one is sacking him – and England need to give Ambrose a proper run.
Kevin Pietersen came through a lean trot to score an excellent ton in the final Test and Andrew Strauss overcame his demons to hit his highest ever Test score.
Let’s hope that he uses that as a springboard to return fully to his best in the summer. Ian Bell scored one of the most beautiful hundreds I have seen, and Monty Panesar emerged from a disappointing winter to spin England to victory in Napier.
His 6-126 are his best figures in Tests, and will remind him of what a fine bowler he can be when he is not stressed and over-hyped.
Stuart Broad had a superb run in the last two games and, as Michael Vaughan recognised, should become a leading all-rounder in international cricket at least for the next decade.
He will need looking after, and he will have off days as he is still learning, but he can certainly bat at number eight and he should put on a yard of pace.
James Anderson remains an enigma, and Matthew Hoggard will have his sights firmly set on regaining his place for the first Test of the summer at Lord's on 15 May.
Anderson’s control was all awry in Napier, which is generally the story of his career. Dangerous one day and expensive the next: unfortunately in a four man attack, captains need more reliability than that.
Steve Harmison needs to decide if he truly wants to devote the time and hard work required to succeed at this level. If he does, and he has a good start to the season, I see no reason why he could not return to the fold, and there will be questions raised about Vaughan continuing to open the batting.
I believe that it makes little difference between who bats at one, two or three – Vaughan has recently spoken of a preference for number three which would restore Strauss to the top of the order.
This series win has reaffirmed his leadership credentials – there is no doubt his players respond willingly to him – but he must get among the runs early in the summer.