During the interval yesterday at the stadium known as Cake Tin Park they recorded some noise footage for the next Lord Of The Rings movie. It seemed a strange location for Middle Earth, but then barely an hour later it was pretty obvious that Bilbo Baggins would not be out of place in the England middle order.
Baggins the bat, which has a certain a ring to it as it were, could have fared no worse than the submissive bunch who filed to inglory. They were batting not so much in a fairy tale as in a nightmare. England, chasing a target of 244, were all out for 89 against New Zealand and lost by 155 runs.
The total was their second lowest in their 344 one-day matches and the margin was the third largest they have suffered. But not only did they not bat well, they fielded badly, dropping three catches and missing a glaring run-out opportunity, and bowled without assertiveness on a surface which ought to have granted them encouragement.
It is too early to propose what effect such a catastrophic reversal will have on the unquestionable progress that Nasser Hussain's side have made this winter. Hussain has made much of his team's inexperience, but this was the sort of sporting ordeal which will either make them grow up quickly or fade into the obscurity whence they came not long ago. England's middle order has been frail in too many matches recently, and on a sporting pitch in this new stadium it was always likely to be up against it.
The official name of the ground is Westpac Trust Stadium, but it is a workmanlike job which would be ideal for cooking a gigantic chocolate sponge, hence Cake Tin Park.
The tourists' difficulties, for once, were compounded because they were chasing too many after Hussain, who often talks of the value of runs on the board, inserted the Kiwis. As the England captain observed later, if it was not an 89 all out pitch (it was not), it was not a 244 pitch (it was also not). If England had restricted New Zealand to around 200, they might have had a realistic chance. As it was, somebody probably had to play the innings of a lifetime. Instead they played an innings to forget for a lifetime.
Hussain said later that he still believed he had the players to beat New Zealand. He did not say in how many matches, but he did say that they were in the dressing room, when some were thinking they might be back at home in England. "We were beaten in all three departments, we didn't even turn up today. It was very poor," he said, if anything overestimating the quality of England's contribution to the match.
If anybody had as poor a time of it as England it was the umpires. They seemed to have confused the laws: leg-before verdicts were given when the batsman hit it, catches when he had not. The noise in the stadium – not just when they were recording for The Lord of the Rings – must have affected their judgement. Hussain rightly made nothing of the three against England. "We could have had 15 in our favour and still not won," he said.
England dropped Andrew Caddick for Matthew Hoggard, which was not entirely a surprise but still catered to the whims of those whose hostility to the New Zealand-born bowler bears no relation to his deeds for the side. They also had Marcus Trescothick at wicketkeeper, which contradicted all recent statements about James Foster, demonstrated the lack of proper planning and gave hope to Alec Stewart.
To justify fielding on a slow, wet one England needed to take wickets early, and plenty of them. They did not, and were oddly lethargic from the moment Nick Knight put down Nathan Astle at second slip. The urgency of previous performances was missing, despite the vibrancy of a crowd eager to be involved.
True, the home side were 52 for 3 with Darren Gough taking two wickets, but it never felt as though England would press home any advantage. New Zealand consolidated with admirable maturity. They hit big shots if there were big shots to be hit but they milked it as well. Their middle order had learned from recent misdemeanours. Paul Collingwood missed a run-out, Knight and Hoggard floored further catching opportunities.
Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan and Lou Vincent all played innings of around the same pace of two runs every three balls. Then the new idol on the block, Andre Adams, thumped 25 in 18 to follow his match-winning 28 in 25 in Christchurch. New Zealand might have found a player.
How much of a player, England were about to discover. He bowled quickly enough at a full length and took three of the first four England wickets. Since they had only 28 runs when the fourth fell, Adams had plunged the tourists into desperate trouble.
They had not a prayer of recovering. It did not matter that Marcus Trescothick did not hit the ball from which he was caught, or that Graham Thorpe did hit the one (actually he nearly belted the cover off it) from which he was adjudged leg before. New Zealand were playing with authority and conviction, England were not.
Owais Shah, given his first chance of the tour, failed on the back of everybody else, Collingwood, with whom England have kept faith through all eight international matches on this two-nation tour, made an 11-ball duck. The top scorer was Andrew Flintoff, who justifiably enjoyed some batting practice, this time at No 7.
The Kiwis shared the wickets round after the early incisions made by Adams. Nathan Astle took three in his 14 balls, Chris Harris, playing in his 200th match, brought the house down with his two.
The crowd were having a jolly old time, appearing in a film and watching England almost match their abject 86 against Australia last June. They joined in with "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler If You Think Old England's Done". New England were kidding nobody. New Zealand enjoyed a cakewalk in the cake tin.
England won toss
C J Nevin c and b Gough 21
N J Astle lbw b Gough 7
B B McCullum c Trescothick b Flintoff 9
*S P Fleming c Shah b Hoggard 40
C D McMillan c Flintoff b White 69
L Vincent b Hoggard 36
C L Cairns c Flintoff b White 11
C Z Harris c Knight b Gough 14
A R Adams not out 25
D L Vettori not out 0
Extras (lb5, w3, nb4) 12
Total (for 8, 215 min, 50 overs) 244
Fall: 1-25 (Astle), 2-34 (Nevin), 3-52 (McCullum), 4-110 (Fleming), 5-194 (McMillan), 6-198 (Vincent), 7-206 (Cairns), 8-243 (Harris). Did not bat: D R Tuffey.
Bowling: Gough 10-0-47-3 (5-0-25-2 3-0-9-0 2-0-13-1), Hoggard 8-1-36-2 (nb3, w2) (4-0-20-0 2-1-8-1 2-0-8-1), Flintoff 10-0-46-1 (w1) (6-0-19-1 2-0-11-0 2-0-16-0), White 10-1-53-2 (nb1) (5-1-19-0 3-0-20-0 2-0-14-2), Giles 8-0-40-0 (3-0-14-0 5-0-26-0), Collingwood 4-0-17-0 (3-0-10-0 1-0-7-0).
Progress: Overnight rain delayed start until 2.30pm. 50 in 40 min, 57 balls. 100 in 100 min, 140 balls. 150 in 152 min, 221 balls. 200 in 186 min, 265 balls.
McMillan 50: 102 mins, 76 balls, 1 four.
M E Trescothick c Nevin b Adams 0
N V Knight b Adams 9
*N Hussain c Fleming b Tuffey 3
G P Thorpe lbw b Adams 10
O A Shah c Fleming b Cairns 7
P D Collingwood c Vettori b Astle 0
A Flintoff c McCullum b Astle 26
C White lbw b Harris 11
A F Giles c Vettori b Harris 12
D Gough b Astle 0
M J Hoggard not out 0
Extras (lb2, w2, nb7) 11
Total (145 min, 37.2 overs) 89
Fall: 1-1 (Trescothick), 2-13 (Hussain), 3-18 (Knight), 4-28 (Thorpe), 5-35 (Collingwood), 6-40 (Shah), 7-65 (White), 8-89 (Giles), 9-89 (Flintoff), 10-89 (Gough).
Bowling: Tuffey 8-3-23-1 (nb4) (6-3-15-1 2-0-8-0), Adams 7-0-13-3 (w1), Cairns 4-1-11-1 (nb1, w1) (one spell each), Astle 2.2-0-4-3 (1-0-1-1 1.2-0-3-2), Vettori 7-0-18-0, Harris 9-2-18-2 (nb2) (one spell each).
Progress: 50 in 91 min, 132 balls.
New Zealand won by 155 runs
Umpires: R S Dunne and D M Quested. TV Umpire: A L Hill. Match Referee: D T Lindsay.Reuse content