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Old Trafford outcome in balance

Jonathan Agnew | 18:49 UK time, Sunday, 25 May 2008

By keeping all but one of their second innings wickets intact in the final 27 overs of the day at Old Trafford, England find themselves well-placed to win a game that, at lunch, they had seemed destined to lose.

It was one of those crazy days of Test cricket in which 16 wickets fell and fortunes shifted dramatically throughout.

That England are back in the game is thanks to New Zealand's rather curious uncertainty when they batted with a lead of 179, and Monty Panesar's bowling down wind at the Statham End.

Panesar celebrates a wicket

Interestingly, he picked up his wickets in a different fashion to Daniel Vettori who, in England's first innings, favoured the more orthodox caught at slip from the outside edge method.

By contrast, four of Panesar's came from lbw appeals and two as a result of aggressive blows by the batsmen, and in taking 6-37 he preyed on New Zealand's apparent indecisiveness.

England's collapse in the morning session, in which they lost six wickets for 50, was pretty feeble. Yes, the ball spun, but they only escaped the follow-on by the skin of their teeth and, frankly, looked a pretty sorry bunch - with the possible exception of Stuart Broad, who made 30 valuable runs.

Vettori completed the rout with his 15th five-wicket haul in Tests, and he will certainly be New Zealand's danger man on the fourth day.

The pitch is now thoroughly untrustworthy. That does not make it a bad strip, but it is one that is giving the bowlers much more help than is usually the case.

Indeed, had the ferocious gale not blown straight down the ground and made it very difficult for the pace bowlers to operate from one end, the game might have been over by now - but it will definitely end on the fourth day, weather permitting, and the forecast is not at all bad.

England will be merely looking to chip away at every run, while an early wicket will lift New Zealand and increase the pressure in the home dressing room.

If they make it, England will have scored their fifth highest fourth innings total to win a Test match - and in tricky conditions, too.

For that reason, New Zealand will start the day as narrow favourites, but they do appear to be a bowler short because of a shoulder injury to Jacob Oram.


  • Comment number 1.

    What a crazy day of cricket! England have finally shown they have the bottle for the fight.
    Half way through the day I was thinking of other players that could come into the side, to replace the "players" from this game. Then, as if from nowhere, Monty produced a great spell and with support from Sidebottom rattled through the Kiwi's, I dont think anybody could have predicted that.
    I just hope England can continue their resiliance tomorrow and don't give their wickets away.
    One subnote is that this must be Anderson's final test, while he can produce some great balls they are accompanied by absolute trash, if he were to play in next summers Ashes, the Aussies would have a field day. Surely Tremlett or Onions could do a far better job?

  • Comment number 2.

    Thiys isn't the first time New Zealand are struggling to remain on top despite scoring 380 in the 1st innings. On the previous tour, NZ scored more than 380 in all 3 Tests, and went on to lose 3-0.

    However, England's batting is missing the solidity of Tresco, Thorpe etc. this series, so I thikn the Kiwis could well win it 2-0.

  • Comment number 3.

    Exciting it may be, but the cause is (to a large extent) poor cricket. Against decent opposition both of these sides would not stand a hope, and I fear for England's chances later in the summer and can not see them coming close in the Ashes on this form.

  • Comment number 4.

    New Zealand still have to consider themselves favourites to win tomorrow. Nine wickets on a helpful surface with England's fragile batting is not too difficult a task. However they are a bowler shy in Oram and with only just over 200 to chase with two days remaining England are still in with a chance.

    I hope that changes will be made for the next test, even if England manage an unlikely win. England can't keep coasting with this side. The batting line-up is flawed and the bowling attack is bland. We need a pace bowler to be introduced, either Harmy, Onions and Tremlett and 2 new batsmen to replace the underperfroming Bell and Colllingwood.

  • Comment number 5.

    Another thought: I agree with Shermo that Anderson has to go. Certainly can't complain with his recent wickets haul, but the price those wickets come at is disturbing, especially against mediocre batsmen. The South Africans and Aussies will have him for breakfast. Hoggard must come back, and the sooner he is joined by Fred the better.

  • Comment number 6.

    The press all attacked the England batsmen before the start of the innings today. Surely that hands the advantage to New Zealand? In what other country would this happen? Calling batsmen average and mediocre is hardly a call to arms. Maybe the problem with the England side is the media's readiness to rubbish them before the game is beyond even the first day. It takes an enormous effort of will and mind to shut that negativity out. Crumbs of encouragement and a big stick is not the way to improve a side, is it?
    Sixteen wickets don't fall in a day unless conditions are playing a part: a dodgy pitch and a howling gale. Great cricket to watch though.

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree Anderson can be expensive. But his strike rate is good, and his average is not bad at this stage in his career, at 37.92 before this test (Vettori's is just under 34). Anderson is still young and there's every reason to hope his average will improve, as it has been doing over the last year when the England management have finally shown some faith in him.

    So can someone tell me why taking 4 for 118 in 20 overs, a decent haul, as Anderson did in the first innings, is inherently worse than taking 4 for 118 in 35 overs?

  • Comment number 8.

    What a peculiar match. The Swamy always predicts disaster for England but was wrong last winter and may be wrong again. This is definitely the moment for a workmanlike display of batting. Several England players are in need of a score to stop speculation starting about their places.

    Really this is a situation for the captain and Andrew Strauss to battle through until England are at least half way to the target. The first hour tomorrow will be critical. What has been good to see is that they have been positive and hit the bad ball.

    With Steve Harmison beginning to recover his form and confidence, one wonders if New Zealand would have got past 250 had he been playing instead of Anderson. Harmison would have been a one-off pick for this match and would most certainly not have been guaranteed a place in the 3rd Test but what England were lacking in the first innings was someone to hurry stubborn batsmen at more than 90mph.

    New Zealand are giving a good account of themselves. There seems to be something of an inferiority complex about some New Zealand fans, judging by some of the comments made on previous days. No one has ever doubted their fighting qualities or their ability to produce a team that is far greater than the sum of the parts. However, their record in England is not good (that is reality, not arrogance) and the home fans will, rightly, be extremely unhappy if that sequence gets broken.

  • Comment number 9.

    Wow, what a game so far. Thanks to monty and a much improved bowling and fielding display we are somehow still in this game, when really new zealand should have batted england totally out of this game. Lets hope this time that the likes of kp, bell, collingwood and ambrose contribute some runs in this series. The first hour and session is vital to england. if vaughen and strauss are still together or at worst we have only lost 1 wicket then i think its englands game to win.

  • Comment number 10.

    battingforbell - it isn't the job of the media to pat the players on the back, provide a resounding call to arms or puff them up when they're deflated.

    If they can't do that themselves, they're in the wrong job. If you need external encouragement, then the coach, captain or army of support staff should step in.

    Journos on the Times, Mail, BBC or whatever aren't paid to caress fragile egos!

  • Comment number 11.

    Vaughan and Strauss can win this for England if they get a decent partnership, Bell and Collingwood are more likely to perform on the back of a physcological victory in defeating the New Zealand attack. Problem for England is a lack in confidence from the middle order if the veterens and big scorers like Pietersen and Vaughan get out cheaply.

  • Comment number 12.

    Very very shaky start 202 is not good enough but monty pulled it out of the bag today. People having been saying that monty hasnt done it for england but today he did fantastic. We started well but cook again he goin cheaply if he doesnt book his ideas up people like luke wright, robert key, mal loye aqre goin to take his opening spot.

  • Comment number 13.

    What an advert for Test cricket. Both sides flittered from the sublime (Vettori/Panesar) to the ridiculous (Both side's batting against said spinners) and as a result it's now in the balance. Although I would probably back New Zealand on a tired and wearing pitch with England's frail top order at the minute. I hope Pietersen, Vaughan, Bell and Collingwood grasp this brilliant chance to turn around their and England's fortunes for this summer. On a side note, Anderson really doesn't have the consistency to bowl for England, he's extremely similar to Plunkett in that he does bowl wicket taking deliveries, only Plunkett sprayed the bowl down legside whereas Jimmy continues to serve up half vollies with plenty of width. Hoggard has to come back in to this team as soon as possible, preferably with Flintoff replacing Broad who, in my opinion, needs to bowl far more in County Cricket to be worthy of being one of England's three top pace bowlers.

    Fingers crossed for tomorrow, we will need luck on our side to win.

  • Comment number 14.

    Today Monty showed that he can still do it. It doesn't hide the fact though that since summer 2006, when he was magnificent, he has only had one really good series and that was against the hapless West Indies last year. He would be the first to admit that his returns have not been up to scratch.

  • Comment number 15.

    Is there something wrong with showing support for the england team even when they're not playing well? Because judging from some of these comments it seems its wrong to back the team.

    As for today, England have pulled themselves back into it. Now the batsman need to do what they haven't done so far; dig in and build partnerships. The run rate is irrelevant at this point.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great show by slow bowlers Dan Vettori for NZ and Monty for the home side. Test cricket is becoming increasingly interesting.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think England maybe slight favourites now, but how often have we seen things turn-around in the morning after a stable final session. I disagree with one of the comments about Anderson. He may be expensive at times but he takes wickets. Tremlott has got all the assetts to be a great fast bowler but he breaks down too often. Onions hasn't yet been tested at this level. Its not the time to bring him in.

    We're forever changing the bowlers around but we don't see too many changes with the batting. Apart from the odd occasion this top 6 have remained unchanged for some time now but its time they started performing on a regular basis. If we loose tomorrow it wouldn't hurt if a couple were left out for the final test.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd like to add my support for Anderson. I also fail to understand how taking 5/139 (in the two innings) can be worse than 0/79. Anderson was expensive but he sent 5 batsmen back to the pavilion. It's like this, see. Once a batsman is out, he can't score any more runs, and if this one bowler gets several of them, it leaves fewer wickets for the other bowlers to take.

    Pundits are salivating over Broad's line and length, and consistency, but these factors are meant to aid only one thing: taking wickets. Until Broad learns to be more penetrative he is still just a potential asset for England with the ball.

  • Comment number 19.

    The way i saw the windies play against the ausies and that first test tells me most of the current teams are fairly level across the board so match winners must come into play .for england jones and flintoff especially.go england and windies, get them!

  • Comment number 20.

    The performance today masks the mediocrity and lack of intensity/ drive shown in the matches this year and whilst on tour. It feels like the players need a first session shock each day to realize that New Zealand are a good professional outfit.

    Perhaps he team have underestimated the quality of New Zealand' professional attitude and rigour. It's as if a "we are too good for them" arrogance exists in the squad.

  • Comment number 21.

    Excellent blog as usual aggers.
    I was watching Durham play today and Steve Harmison was bowling very fast and in a very aggressive manner. The England team has lacked a bruising fast bowler in this series and Anderson has been too expensive. I think if Harmison can bowl like he was doing today then he could soon be on his way back to being the world's number one bowler. I also think Jamie Foster or Chris Read should be the keeper because Ambrose is not the right calibre keeper to be playing international cricket and i think his batting isn't quite good enough.

  • Comment number 22.

    Battingwitharunner, since he came back into the Test side eighteen months ago he has played 12 Tests. In that time he has taken 39 wickets - more than 3 per Test, which is a pretty good rate - but at an average of 41.8, which makes Steve Harmison look positively world-beating.

    In that time, he has mixed superb performances (5-42 v India, 5-73 v NZ) with truly horrific ones (1-132 at more than 4 an over, 4-182 at more than 4.5 an over, 1-128 at almost 5 an over, 1-99 at almost 6 an over, 0-54 at almost 8 an over). Every bowler is entitled to bad figures sometimes but, with Jimmy Anderson, they are far too frequent.

    If you have three reliable seamers supporting him, you can cope with erratic performances, but we do not. Broad is still learning his craft and, as has correctly been pointed out, should be playing for his county more and poor old Sidebottom is often trying to take wickets at the other end with the new ball while Anderson, his new ball partner, is going at 5 or 6 an over at the other end.

  • Comment number 23.

    Cricketing_stargazer your analysis of James Anderson is spot on. You really should look into punditry or if not selecting England test squads? For me, Anderson is simply not good enough, Plunkett and Mahmood both bowled many wicket taking deliveries yet they were cast away, so why not Jimmy? Bring back Hoggy as soon as he recovers from his injury.

  • Comment number 24.

    Aggers, If the Bearded wonder gets a chance tomorrow I would be interested to see what the difference of the averages for the last say 3-4 wickets of the test playing sides are.

    To my mind England were in a pretty similar situation to NZ apart from the decent rearguard action. It might be my perception but the main difference is the lack of a wicket taker amoungst the lower order not just the top 5-6 batters (This NZ 2nd excepted)

    The Aussies seem to steamroller the sides they play after they get into the bowlers, but England time and again allow the batting side to put on 100-150 for the last 3-4 wickets and it puts them on the back foot.

    As for the side, Anderson allows the batting side to wait for the bad ball inside of keeping them under pressure, it is County Cricket standard, against an average Test side and isn't good enough, even if he can take wickets. Broad also doesn't fill me with confidence. A better bowling all-rounder would also take the pressure off the tail, but as Collingwood doesn't seem to bowl in tests and his form is also patchy I am wondering if there should be a total shake up?

  • Comment number 25.

    Segga Express, its one thing Harmisson bowling well for Durham, its another bowling well for England, and its been a long time since he has. Secondly, so you think Foster and Read are better better batsmen then Ambrose. The only keeper on the circuit who's a better batsman then Ambrose is Prior and I didn't see anything wrong with Ambrose's keeping. His catch to get Oram out was excellent. Its no good swapping and changing keepers every few games. Please judge Ambrose after 10 tests.

  • Comment number 26.

    Anderson as a part of a four man attack is a no. No captain can go in to a test match wondering if one of his bowlers is going to be sublime or redicilous because if he is the latter it effectively makes it a 3 man attack.

    Broad is definitely worth persevering with because he has consistently shown that he can trouble batsmen but doesn't always get the wickets his spells deserve.

    Harmison is someone who does not like travelling and I'm sorry you can't have a bowler who only plays in home test matches.

  • Comment number 27.

    oh dear. as usual, the only thing stopping the kiwis winning is their uncanny ability to collapse in the 2nd innings, and hand wins to sides they have otherwise outplayed. deja vu from last time here. and so on.....

    personally despite the vagaries of the wicket i think england are now in the driving seat, simply because it is theirs to either win or lose. and i rather suspect they might win. darn.

  • Comment number 28.

    Cricketing_stargazer wrote:
    Since he came back into the Test side eighteen months ago he has played 12 Tests. In that time he has taken 39 wickets - more than 3 per Test, which is a pretty good rate - but at an average of 41.8, which makes Steve Harmison look positively world-beating.
    Selective stats, always a good game! Well that's 18 months. In the last 12 months, however, he has played 8 matches and taken 34 wickets at 35.79, compared to his career average of 37.28. It's still not good enough, but moving in the right direction.

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics, hey!

  • Comment number 29.

    Anderson! Why do we keep picking him? One decent delivery which picks up a wicket amongst so much dross does not make a great or even decent test bowler. Some control would be good, Tremlett didn't take loads of wickets but he dried up an end last year at least, why do we persist with four ball an over Jimmy?

    As for the batting Colly and Belly? They have the ability but both look scared of failing rather than keen to hit runs. Boot up the backside?

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm glad I saved my gloating until after NZ's second innings, hopefully I can get my gloat on by lunch tomorrow as England crumble in the face of some variable bounce and turn for 160ish.

    The kiwis should/could have got themselves to around 450 in their first innings, if not for Flynn's injury and Vettori's bizarre run-out. The strip was good enough. England should be chasing 350. As it is we've left them an outside chance...

    Whichever way it goes, another very interesting contest!

    There is no inferiority complex amongst Kiwi supporters, we're just baffled by England's superiority complex. They are only an average county side, with some workmanlike players. New Zealand needs some better competition if we're to trouble SA and Australia. Hah!

  • Comment number 31.

    Battingwitha runner: dead right, shorten the period and you can massage his numbers to look better because you take in most of the good performances and drop some of the bad. Calcuilate his stats from just this Test and his average improves even more.

    12 Tests is a fair period, as you say, to judge his progress. Less is simply being selective and making the stats unreliable.

    And, as you say, it just is not good enough. No Test opening bowler should be regularly over the last 9 months be going at 5+ an over.

  • Comment number 32.

    Good effort from the england bowlers!

  • Comment number 33.

    An interesting days cricket and a pitch that is doing a bit, but these are all excuses to mask an England team which is still performing woefully.

    How are England going to compete with the Aussies if they cannot bowl out or make runs against the Kiwis?

    Perhaps the likes of Pieterson should worry about getting runs for England rather than complaining in the media about how much money he could get in the IPL. On his current form he wouldn't even deserve a game.

  • Comment number 34.

    Is it any wonder that Sidebottom has become England's most reliable bowler? He's the only one who's had a real apprenticeship, bowling over after over, learning about his game in the county scene until he can put a ball on a line and length at will.

    I'm not of course advocating that you can't bowl for England until you're in your late twneties, but do feel for the likes of Plunkett, Mahmood and of course Anderson who had rudimentary experience for their counties, showed promise and were picked on that. They then get to the big arena ill-prepared, got tonked, got thrown off their rhythm and so got dropped, taking two steps back from the confidence knock.

    I think that Anderson in particular suffered greatly for being England's perennial 12th man a few seasons ago, being denied a test place, but also time to bowl a cricket ball in a county game as he was bringing drinks onto the field for the test side. Then he got slated for being rubbish when he did play!

    Of course, I'm not trying to defend Anderson's infuriating performances, just expressing concern with the way that anyone showing promise is almost destined to suffer from hasty selection - mainly resulting from the paucity of options eslewhere.

    There's a fine balance for the selectors to strike between picking on talent and not damaging that talent by early picking. A bit like fruit.

  • Comment number 35.

    Well done, Monty! One in the eye of the doubters!

  • Comment number 36.

    If England take their usual softly, softly approach then they will likely lose. They need to begin to dominate the bowlers.
    Remember Adelaide.

  • Comment number 37.

    Quite agree that we need to change Anderson, but I'm afraid Harmison is a has been. As has been mentioned above looking like a decent bowler in county cricket but he has shown he doesn't have the bottle any more for Test cricket. Any bowler that can't be bothered to tour and can't be bothered to play one day internationals frankly can't be bothered to play for England and I wouldn't have him.

    Strongly disagree with those who say we should not be playing Broad, he looks real class to me and will become a genuine allrounder at Test level in my view. Looks much better than Fintoff did at the same stage of his career and will only improve.

  • Comment number 38.

    I can't see how you see the Kiwis as "narrow favourites" Aggers. At the end of every day in this test it has been even steven and I see no reason why it isn't so before they start today:

    Day 1- 202/4
    Day 2- NZ 381, Eng 152/4
    Day 3- NZ 381 and 114, Eng 202 and 76/1

    Of course the key is how they play Vettori and indeed how well he bowls himself. It is worth mentioning here that his bowling support from the other end is as crucial. If this is like O'Brien's spell into the wind yesterday then I will be drinking champagne tonight.

    By the way, well bowled Monty-you are learning from the master. The test will be when you are bowling on a flat one to Gibbs, Smith, Kallis and co...

  • Comment number 39.

    i worry that the selectors are going to bat Flintoff at 7 again. ERROR. he is not a test match number 7. traditionally he has always got out playing a defensive stroke (or a slog) - this has been the same in his recent innings, so presumably his technique is as suspect as ever. bat him 8 and let him play with a bit more freedom. we need a 7 who can stick around a bit.

    great stuff from Monty. love his aggression.

  • Comment number 40.

    I think this England innings could be very revealing. They batted in the first innings as if they were scared to lose and would be happy with a draw and this seemed to paralyse them. Now there are only 2 options as the draw is out of the equation. So, to avoid losing, they must win so they are compelled to be positive. Can they do it? Or will they bottle out? Verrry interesting.

  • Comment number 41.

    Would the match be even close if Panesar had been given choice of ends to bowl from in the first innings? Perhaps he should have appealed aggressively for the wind - or would Vaughany not have liked it? - he is quite fragile.


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