by Michael Wicherek
A WIN in Christchurch this week would do little to paper over the cracks that have opened up this winter. Having not won a test match during the Ashes, England’s innings defeat to New Zealand in a test where two days were lost to rain was truly shambolic.
The last time England visited Auckland, a Matt Prior century rescued a draw with one wicket remaining, Stuart Broad saw off 77 balls for just six runs.
Where was the application this time round? England’s batsmen continue to find ways to get themselves out, with poor shot selection commonplace in this test. As well as Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner bowled, the likes of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow played shots that did not warrant the situation.
Bairstow could have been out sooner if Boult had held on to a simple catch at mid-on off the bowling of Todd Astle. Stokes’ dismissal was arguably more frustrating because of how well he had played, top scoring with 66. He was one of four batsmen to pass 50 but the only one of them to reach 60 or more. England’s batsmen must show better application.
England have only taken 62 wickets in the six tests this winter at an average of over 50. Only three times have they taken all ten wickets in a single innings. Unsurprisingly, James Anderson and Stuart Broad lead the way in terms of wickets and economy.
However, the main concern for England is the spin option Moeen Ali. He has taken only five wickets this winter, at a cost of over 120 runs per wicket and taking over 200 balls to do so. Although Mason Crane’s sample pool is vastly smaller having only played the one test, he fared no better taking just the one wicket on debut.
Alarmingly, part time spinner Joe Root boasts the best average, strike-rate and economy of all spinners to have taken a wicket this winter.
England’s bowling statistics in Test matches this winter. Correct as of 28th March 2018.
Bowler Overs Runs Wickets Economy Average Strike Rate
J.Anderson 252.3 560 20 2.22 28.00 75.69
S.Broad 229 603 14 2.63 43.07 98.14
C.Woakes 200 602 10 3.01 60.20 120.00
C.Overton 84 296 7 3.52 42.29 72.00
M.Ali 186.2 634 5 3.40 126.80 223.44
J.Root 31.3 91 3 2.91 30.33 62.60
T.Curran 66 200 2 3.03 100.00 198.00
J.Ball 26 115 1 4.42 115.00 156.00
M.Crane 48 193 1 4.02 193.00 288.00
D.Malan 21 54 0 2.57 N/A N/A
England must make changes for the last test match of the tour. Jack Leach must come in for the struggling Moeen Ali. If fit, Mark Wood has to be brought in to bring some pace to a painfully one-dimensional seam attack.
When Stokes can bowl again, another batsman needs to be drafted in to strengthen the batting line-up, but until then it feels light on the batting front.