Bewildered batsmen lose sight of big score

England cannot go into tomorrow night's second Test in Wellington with the same team as that comprehensively beaten by New Zealand on Sunday. Changes must be made, if only to give those members of the side who may still feel invincible a reminder that everyone is expendable.

James Whitaker, England's travelling selector, was meant to return home yesterday but he will now stay in New Zealand until the start of the Test, attempting to make sense of what took place in Hamilton. His presence suggests important decisions need to be made.

Stephen Harmison has to be given a break. It would be cruel to throw Harmison back into the cauldron when he is so blatantly out of form and short of confidence. But who else will be made accountable for the team's humiliating 189-run defeat? England bowled poorly in Hamilton and Harmison is set to face the consequences, but will a batsman go the same way, given that England did not bat particularly well in the Test, being dismissed for a pathetic 110 in their second innings on a perfectly decent pitch? It is unlikely. History – or is it just a bitter and twisted former bowler? – suggests otherwise. However, even now it tends to be a bowler who makes way after a dreadful showing. In most cases batsmen are still the decision-makers and they stick pretty close together.

But it is time to have a look at how England's batsmen have performed recently because Sunday's capitulation was not the first. Indeed, one of the most disconcerting statistics to emerge this winter is that England's finest willow-wielders have posted just one Test hundred in the previous four Tests.

The last first-innings hundred, an innings that could potentially shape the course of the game, came eight Tests ago when Paul Collingwood helped himself to 136 against the West Indies at Chester-le-Street.

In the build-up to the first Test, when the strengths and weaknesses of both teams were being assessed, the batting averages of both sides were highlighted.

For England the figures made favourable reading, with each member of their top six averaging above 40. New Zealand do not have a batsman averaging over the benchmark figure. Statistics, however, can be misleading, as England's are. With the exception of Kevin Pietersen, who remains the team's best and most consistent performer, each of England's batsmen have averaged at least 12 runs fewer per innings than they did when they were at their peak, and no batsman's average has risen in the past 18 months.

In order for the statistics to be realistic, peak figures have been taken from a point when each was an established member of the side but since then four players are averaging in the mid-thirties.

So what is the reason for this downturn? Is it that Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Collingwood and Michael Vaughan are technically less capable than they once were? Has the quality of bowling in Test cricket improved? Have the pitches worsened? Or is it that the concentration, patience and drive required to post big scores have diminished?

The cause will vary from player to player. Bell seems obsessed with technique; Strauss is nervously trying to prove himself; Pietersen is attempting to play more responsibly, even though his strike rate and average were at their highest at the same point. But the standard of bowling has not gone up and the quality of pitches has improved, so runs should be easier to come by, and too much can be made of technical flaws.

England's batsmen seem to be battling with themselves as much as the opposition. Does an average of 40 and a shortage of young players vying for their place breed complacency, or is there a limit to their powers of concentration? There is certainly a weakness against spin, as John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, intimated yesterday when explaining why the Black Caps were playing two spinners.

Whatever the problems are, they are having a huge impact on England's cricket. That no batsman has scored more than one hundred in his last 12 innings is a telling fact, but not as telling as the number of occasions each has reached 20. With the exception of Pietersen they have all reached this score in more than 50 per cent of their innings. Any batsman can get out early but these conversion rates are unacceptable. The first 20 runs are supposed to be the hardest.

England's batting in Hamilton suggests a state of confusion. They know that they should be doing better, but with every innings pressure and a fear of failure are growing. At the Basin Reserve, Vaughan will not care whether hundreds come at a run a ball or take six hours, as long as they come.

If they do not England will struggle to get back into this Test series and it could be a batsman who gets axed for the third Test.

On the back foot: The decline of England's top six

Alastair Cook
Career average 44.16
Average peaked during his ninth Test v Pakistan (the Oval 2006) 54.36
In 30 innings since 1,226 runs @ 40.87
One 100 in last 16 innings
More than 20 – eight times

Michael Vaughan
Career average 43.42
Average peaked during 31st Test v South Africa (Edgbaston 2004) 51.57
In 82 innings since 2,901 runs @ 38.17
One 100 in last 18 innings
More than 20 – 11 times

Andrew Strauss
Career average 40.35
Average peaked during 11th Test v South Africa (Wanderers 2005) 63.26
In 62 innings since 2,066 runs @ 33.32
No 100 in last 27 innings
More than 20 – 15 times

Kevin Pietersen
Career average 49.55
Average peaked during 13th Test v Sri Lanka (Edgbaston 2006) 51.74
In 41 innings since 1,882 runs @ 48.26
One 100 in last 12 innings
More than 20 – five times

Ian Bell
Career average 43.18
Average peaked during 17th Test v Pakistan (Headingley 2006) 48.81
In 33 innings since 1,110 runs @ 35.81
No 100 in last 19 innings
More than 20 – 11 times

Paul Collingwood
Career average 42.43
Average peaked during 17th Test v Australia (Adelaide 2006) 48.43
In 27 innings since 893 runs @ 35.72
No 100 in last 14 innings
More than 20 – nine times

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Midsummer swimwear season is well and truly upon us – but diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice