It took England 11 overs and almost five hours to complete their rout of New Zealand. They won the Second Test by 247 runs and the Investec series by 2-0 after completely dominating its latter stages.
The tourists finally exhibited weaknesses that they had managed to keep well concealed for most of the last three months. England did much what they expected to do in what amounted to the first leg of the contest in New Zealand when they were fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw.
England’s clear superiority was on display from the fourth day at Lord’s onwards. They bowled better, they batted, they fielded better, they were better than their opponents.
Considering that the first day of this match was lost to rain and that the weather was again contrary on the fifth the victory could hardly have been more emphatic. Between the showers, Graeme Swann took his innings tally to six wickets and New Zealand’s second innings dutifully folded.
Swann was thus the first spinner to take ten wickets in a Headingley Test since 1972 when Derek Underwood captured 10 Australians on a pitch infected by the fungal disease, fusarium. He is also the first spinner to take ten wickets in an English Test match in May since Colin Blythe in 1909.
The series ended under murky skies shortly after 3.30pm after New Zealand had played nine successive maiden overs in a desperate attempt either to play out the remaining overs (more than 30) or until the rain resumed – whichever was the sooner. This futile but dogged resistance lasted until Alastair Cook, England’s captain, turned to Jimmy Anderson, the leader of his attack who whistled up a ball which held its own outside off stump and took the edge of Trent Boult’s obdurate bat.
Job sterlingly done. Yet it was difficult to be completely cock-a-hoop about the way in which England went about their cricket in this match. Their batting was still prone to diffidence in both innings and on Sunday night when they had chosen not to enforce the follow-on Jonathan Trott, the most dependable of numbers threes, was virtually moribund.
Cook’s captaincy, now 11 games old, is beginning to show the cut of its jib. While he would have it differently – and did so after the match – he is cautious almost to a fault. If this was reflected in his decision to bat again when New Zealand were already reeling it was also given a sharper focus by the fashion he chose to take New Zealand wickers in their second innings.
England led by 468 runs, a gap that New Zealand had not the faintest hope of bridging, yet Cook eschewed most of the attacking options he could have taken. For most of the time he set a regulation field which made it seem that England were bereft of ambition and urgency.
Cook would say that he was lulling his opponents into a false sense of security but it did not much look as if one side was utterly in control of the match. Even as late as the fifth morning when the it was all effectively done and dusted there was a distinct shortage of men round the bat, both behind it and in front of it.
Most of England’s fielders should have been able to see the whites of their opponents’ eyes by then, instead of which too many seemed to be wandering around in the country. Ultimately, the result speaks for itself and all will be forgotten and forgiven if and when Cook brings two Ashes series home later in the year, but cricketers, like all sportsmen , must remember sometimes that they have a responsibility to the game as a whole as well as the game at hand.
Relief was intermingled with the joy that England felt in victory. The weather forecast was gloomy and when play was held up at the start of the day the fear was that the rain would persevere long into the afternoon.
But after 45 minutes it relented long enough for play to start. England took a wicket almost immediately when the tourists’ captain, Brendon McCullum, drove a low full toss back to Stuart Broad which the bowler did well to take low to his left.
Shortly before another shower, the belligerent Tim Southeee, having been dropped by Trott moving to his left, was caught by him after edging again to slip. There then followed another break, an early lunch, more mopping up and a resumption at 3pm.
It began drizzling again almost immediately but the umpires, keen to play throughout the match, kept the players out. Swann thought he had Doug Bracewell caught off bat and pad only for the decision to be overturned on review.
But the champion off spinner got his man in the end, Ian Bell taking a smart catch at silly point off bat and pad. When England need a close fielder in front of the bat, Bell should always be at the front of the queue. He has not put in years of work simply to shed the unfashionable position simply because Joe Root is a newcomer to the scene. Those days should be gone.
Swann was made man of the match and Root man of the series for England with Southee taking the award for New Zealand.
Cook has now won six of his 11 matches as captain, a success rate up with the finest. If he can sustain that in the next few months he can probably put is fielders where he likes and have the follow-on law abolished.