Sidebottom swings match England's way
Napier: day two of third Test - Ryan Sidebottom’s amazing return to Test cricket goes from strength to strength, and he has now become the highest England wicket taker ever on a tour of New Zealand.
More significantly, perhaps, he has rescued England from the real prospect of defeat in the final Test and put them in the position from which they should take the series.
His achievement has to be measured against the fact that if England’s batting on the first day was dreadful, New Zealand’s first innings was not of Test quality.
I don’t think, in 18 years, I have seen a quite such an inept performance from a senior Test-playing team in such an important match...
Batting sides can always be bundled out, of course, but New Zealand threw their wickets away in a desperate show of naivety, and literally handed the advantage to England on a plate.
I can’t see any way back for New Zealand now.
All of that said, Sidebottom does make things happen. From a batsman’s perspective, he is always in your face.
The wild hair and, sometimes, overplayed shows of aggression all serve to produce a reaction. He has also bowled beautifully controlled lines and a full length – it just shows what a period of sustained county cricket can do for you.
Let’s hope the new selectors are wise enough to take note, and give Liam Plunkett, for example, a chance to learn his craft before exposing him to Test cricket again.
Andrew Strauss finds himself in the enviable position of being able to bat with no pressure at all throughout the third day.
What an opportunity for him against a bowling attack that carries little threat on such a flat pitch to rediscover his lost touch. Kevin Pietersen is also set to make hay as England aim to bat New Zealand out of the match.
They have been gifted a second chance, and I will be surprised if they blow it. Mind you, the way both teams have batted in this series, I would not necessarily bet against it!