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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum