England need to pass Kiwi test to take pressure off Vaughan

Questions will be asked about captain and coach if tourists continue losing run

For cricketers of a certain age – and not all of them are drawing their pension – it must be absurd to reflect. In the old days of not so long ago, England tours of New Zealand were a bit of a jaunt, a jolly wander through the Land of the Long White Cloud, where it was perfectly acceptable to bury your head if youso wished.

Such expeditions used to be tagged on to the end of the long tour of Australia. It was notquite like a royal visit, but the impression was not easily dispelled that the mother country was doing the Kiwis a favour, popping in to see the colonials on their way home.

What blessed relief it was the last time that happened, when Mike Denness's team arrived early in 1975 having been duffed up by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson and vented their sheer relief by doing some duffing-up of their own.

If those days have long since been banished– although in 1984-85 there were suggestions of the jolliness being excessive – it is still difficult to appreciate the sheer cricketing significance of the imminent tour. Heads are no longer in the clouds; they are on the block. England's party for a five-match one-day series left yesterday, those who will make up the Test squad will join them early next month.

While some leeway may,just, be permissible in theshort game, England simplyhave to win the Test matches. They can be as mealy-mouthed as they like about it, and their one-day captain, Paul Collingwood, was not slow in trying yesterday, but there are futures on the line between now and the end of March.

Collingwood is probably safe because he was not being disingenuous in saying that England are still learning. But not so in the Tests. Otherwise, questions will be asked about the Test captaincy of Michael Vaughan and the coaching of Peter Moores.

There is invariably the temptation to react inappropriately to sporting defeat. If it is the spectators' privilege to do so, it is also an unedifying modern spectacle. Vaughan's entire team of surgeons would have been kept in business for their whole careers by treating the knees which have jerked in reaction to uninspired England performances.

But England have in mind the winning of the Ashes in 2009. Sometimes it is possible to think that this is all they have in mind. But to have any prospect of doing that, they must enter the series with a winning record. Part of the reason they beat Australia in 2005 – only three years ago, but it seems like half a lifetime – was because they had the confidence imbued by a marvellous run.

Nobody should doubt the merit of that victory and how beautifully planned it was, and therefore nobody should easily dismiss the claims of Vaughan to continue in the job. Equally, he cannot blithely continue to talk of building a new side, because that new side haveto start acting as though they mean business.

On their last outing (Galle, late December) England were desperately disappointing. The initial judgement was that they lacked expertise. Yes and no. They also lacked intelligence.

As much as Vaughan will be scrutinised, so will Moores. He was the obvious candidate for the job last April and he is competent, thorough and well-liked. But the Test team he coaches have lost two successive series, something that never happened under his predecessor,Duncan Fletcher.

England have gone six Tests without any player scoring a first-innings hundred, five without a bowler taking five wickets in an innings. It is tempting to saythat it is as long since a wicket-keeper took a catch, but, of course, it is not.

In his assessment of New Zealand yesterday, Collingwood repeatedly referred to how dan-gerous they are. As a one-day side, this argument holds some water, though it is also true that in their previous two one-day series against decent opposition, South Africa and Australia, the Kiwis were soundly beaten.

As a Test side they are hapless. They lack players both of charisma and substance, and their top-order batting looks frail to the point of ineptitude. One measure of where they stand is that against Bangladesh recentlythey decided to recall the openerMatthew Bell six years after his most recent appearance. He had averaged barely into the mid-20s when last picked and will soon be 31.

England have their own soon-to-be 31-year-old opener to ease back into the side. On the slenderest of selectorial reasoning – he has had a bit of a rest – Andrew Strauss has now been recalled. He will almost cer-tainly open the innings in the Test matches, which will necessitate another reshuffling of the order. Does Vaughan move back to three, forcing Ian Bell to move yet again? They had betterdecide for good and all.

They also have to decide on who should keep wicket, which is bordering on being selectorially inexcusable. So do Australia, but for different reasons. The bowling looks reasonable enough, but it should notbe resisted for long by the opposition.

New Zealand are weak at present and it is probable they are in as big a mess as England. They are there to be beaten, and England must do so professionally and competently.

This week it was reported gleefully that the numbers playing cricket in England had increased by 47 per cent. That is almost as jolly as a tour of New Zealand used to be, but lose there and it could soon decline.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower