There are three ways that the England coach, Peter Moores, could have responded to his side's discouraging performance here in Dunedin yesterday. He could have shrugged his shoulders, chuckled, and thought to himself, "Thank heavens we have got that display out of the way before the Test series". Another option would have been to slam the door of the dressing room behind him and give his players a good, old-fashioned rollocking. Then again, he could panic.
At this stage of the tour, the first option is probably the most advisable, closely followed by the second should there be a repeat offence. The third is not necessary yet – England have played this poorly in warm-up matches on previous tours yet gone on to win the Test series.
Nevertheless, it was extremely disconcerting to see England's strongest batting line-up get bowled out 40 minutes after lunch for just 131 on the first day of their final warm-up match before the first Test next week. An inept batting display was best summed up by the sight of Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss staying behind after the close of play to work on their batting on the practice ground adjacent to the main pitch. For these two, time is running out.
To begin with, England's bowling, with the exception of the excellent Matthew Hoggard, was not much better as a New Zealand Selection XI raced to 98 without loss. Steve Harmison and Chris Tremlett, vying for possibly the same place in the first Test in Hamilton, improved after tea, picking up a wicket each. Hoggard and Paul Collingwood each claimed a victim too and when stumps were drawn the Selection XI had been reduced to 177 for 4.
"It was not the day we were hoping for," said a disappointed Moores. "It was quite hard work because it seamed around a bit early on and they bowled pretty well but, in general, we played a bit loose and we paid the penalty for it. The batsmen have one more innings now to get themselves right and they have to make the most of any time they get in the middle. But there is practice time and we have to make sure we make the most of that, too.
"The side we picked and the batting order we had gives us the chance to look at players," Moores added. "We have an idea of what our Test team will be but we wanted to have a look at the options that are available to us too. We have an interesting decision to make with Stephen Harmison, who is behind where we want him to be because he came out five days late due to the birth of his fourth child. I thought Stephen bowled better than in the previous game but he is still not where he wants to be."
Harmison and Tremlett bowled too short on a surface that rewarded bowlers who pitched the ball up. From the sidelines it looks impressive when a bowler bangs the ball in halfway down and it flies through to the keeper at head height, and on a pitch offering lateral movement batsmen are more than happy to leave as many deliveries alone as they can.
Hoggard bowled the right length but his style is not really suited to seaming conditions. His slingy, swinging action means that he undercuts the ball, causing it not to react with the pitch in the same way as a tall, over-the-top bowler who hits the surface hard. Stuart Broad would have been best suited to the conditions and the unconvincing bowling of Harmison and Tremlett brings him back in to Test contention.
It was aggressive, full-pitched seam bowling by the Selection XI that accounted for England's top six batsmen in the morning session. Vaughan inside-edged a delivery that nipped back through to the wicketkeeper, Strauss attempted to shovel a ball through the leg side and top-edged it straight up in the air, and Alastair Cook, working to leg, chipped a ball that seamed away from him to cover point.
Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood edged beautiful leg-cutters through to the keeper, while Kevin Pietersen was caught in the same position driving loosely. Pietersen was the only England batsman to pass 20, striking nine boundaries in his half-century. In an attempt to counter the opposition's seam bowling, he advanced two or three metres down the pitch to almost every ball he faced.
Tim Ambrose is also in need of a decent score to settle his nerves prior to his Test debut on Wednesday, but on 12 Iain O'Brien trapped him in front. O'Brien finished with 4 for 34, a performance that may have earned him a place in New Zealand's squad for the first Test.
Scoreboard from Dunedin
First day of three; New Zealand Selection XI won toss
England – First Innings
A N Cook c Patel b Gillespie 19
*M P Vaughan c Griggs b O'Brien 0
A J Strauss c How b O'Brien 5
K P Pietersen c Griggs b Orchard 50
I R Bell c Griggs b Elliot 10
P D Collingwood c Griggs b Elliot 2
†T R Ambrose lbw b O'Brien 12
C T Tremlett not out 17
M J Hoggard b O'Brien 2
S J Harmison c Taylor b Gillespie 0
M S Panesar b Gillespie 4
Extras (lb6 w2 nb2) 10
Total (40.1 overs) 131
Fall: 1-2 2-17 3-38 4-64 5-91 6-95 7-122 8-124 9-125.
Bowling: Gillespie 14.1-0-62-3; O'Brien 12-2-34-4; Elliot 8-3-12-2; Orchard 6-2-17-1.
New Zealand Selection XI – First Innings
M D Bell c Ambrose b Hoggard 40
*J M How c Cook b Tremlett 65
P G Fulton lbw b Collingwood 23
R L Taylor c Strauss b S J Harmison 8
M S Sinclair not out 14
G D Elliot not out 13
Extras (lb10 w1 nb3) 14
Total (for 4, 47 overs) 177
Fall: 1-98 2-127 3-144 4-148.
To bat: M G Orchard, †B B J Griggs, J S Patel, M R Gillespie, I E O'Brien.
Bowling: Hoggard 14-5-32-1; Tremlett 13-3-50-1; S J Harmison 12-0-59-1; Collingwood 5-0-19-1; Panesar 3-1-7-0.
Umpires: B G Frost and P D Jones (both NZ).Reuse content