More of the same for England today, only worse. Considering the damage a rampant, joyful New Zealand inflicted, it was possible once more to fear what might happen next month when Australia are here.
There remains a strong likelihood that England can save the second Investec Test and win the series but only because 67 overs were lost to rain on the fourth day. They were 44 for 0, in pursuit of a nominal 455, which would be 37 runs more than the highest winning score in a Test match.
It was a thoroughly workmanlike start by Alastair Cook and his refreshingly confident new partner Adam Lyth, but completely sedate compared to what had preceded it. For an hour in the morning, when the sun shone through a piercing breeze, the tourists came out and simply, instinctively, smashed the ball to all parts.
Wherever England bowled – which was not invariably in the right place – they struck hard and often high. New Zealand batted for 75 minutes, faced 16 overs and made 116 additional runs for the loss of two more wickets.
England were powerless. While it is true that New Zealand’s intent made it difficult to interrupt them, it was a deeply embarrassing interlude. Nobody seemed prepared to stick to one plan and panic was etched on faces and in actions.
The regular chats between overs were meaningless. As soon as they were driven off a fullish length, England resorted to short-pitched stiff and were duly pulled, hooked and top-edged. Attacking or defensive fields were similarly breached or cleared.
Fortune did not favour England but they were found badly wanting. They might have had the left-hander Mark Craig caught at mid-off on 24. True, it would have been a wonder catch by Stuart Broad but that is what it takes to terminate wonder batting.
Much more culpable was the chance that went begging at slip when Tim Southee was on one. Neither Ian Bell at second slip (whose chance it probably was) nor Joe Root at third moved, instead staring at each other in mute astonishment. The slip cordon has been found badly wanting in the two matches of this series and needs drastic amendment.
Craig added 43 runs to finish on 58 not out from 77 balls (“What kept you?” his colleagues might have asked), Southee plundered everything put before him, making 40 from 24 balls.
England dismissed the centurion B J Watling – but not before he had added 20 racy runs to his overnight 100 – and had Southee caught in the deep off Moeen Ali’s slower stuff.
Watling became the first New Zealander to score a Test century at Headingley. “I’m very proud to have achieved that,” he said afterwards. “I wasn’t really aware of it until I read it last night.”
All the England bowlers were treated disdainfully, no one more than Broad, whose three overs cost 42 runs.
The final over of the innings went for 19 and it was entirely fitting that the last two balls were both hooked for six by Matt Henry.
In all, eight New Zealanders struck sixes in the innings, a record in Tests, and their overall run rate in the match was the highest by a team scoring more than 800 runs.
Only at the Old Wanderers in 1903 when Clem Hill of Australia took advantage of a woefully weak South Africa, has there been a more rapid rate over two innings. The total of 454 for 8 declared left England needing 455 to win.
In theory they had plenty of time with 171 overs left in the match. They could dawdle along at under three an over and still prevail. The rain which came in early afternoon and did not recede put paid to that fanciful thought.
Root, however, thought otherwise. “We’ve got every intention of winning the game and we feel very positive,” the batsman said. “The first hour will be important to set up the chase.”
They will have to bat for 98 overs to stave off defeat tomorrow, with the ball turning for Craig’s off spin and the bounce capricious. The feeling is hard to resist that New Zealand deserve to win.
“You can’t control the weather [but] we are definitely backing ourselves,” said Watling. “We have to concentrate on our skills, put the ball in the right areas and we can cause some problems.”Reuse content