By George Marrable
- New Zealand held on to clinch a draw on final day.
- Defeat for England in second test means they lose the series 1-0.
- Series defeat brings a disappointing winter away from home for England.
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – Needing ten wickets on the final day for victory, England fell just short as the second test match with New Zealand ended in a draw.
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Is it time for Cook to go?
A magnificent servant to the team, and undoubtedly a wonderful batsman, Alastair Cook has been a fixture at the top of the England order for many years now.
However, it was a game of many struggles once again for the opening batsman, as he made a high score of just 14 across both innings. It has been a regular, yet unfortunate occurrence for Cook. Once England’s most reliable batsman, he now has just one score above 50 in his last 14 innings.
It seems wrong to question the technique of a player who has had such sustained success at the top of the order, but Cook has consistently been found out by Trent Boult. Once again in the second innings, Cook edged the ball behind to be dismissed.
Cook, at the moment, looks lost at the crease, and one can only think how much longer it will continue. On one had, a player with immense ability as Cook is destined to come out the other side of this poor run. He showed with his double century against Australia he still can cut it at the top level.
But, as England’s top order troubles persist, whilst not as prominently in this second test, it’s likely changes will not be made. And, given his record over recent series, Cook could very well find himself in the firing line.
Cook’s saving grace may well be their top order trouble’s, with someone else getting the chop instead of him, especially with many unsure as to who would replace him at the top of the order.
Young Haseeb Hameed may be the first in line to replace Cook, but until the County Championship gets underway, no one can be sure who, if anyone, will take his spot.
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England may finally have found their spinner
Despite being their go-to spinner and reliable lower order batsman, Moeen Ali was dropped for the second test in Christchurch. In his place, Jack Leach made his debut. Although he came away wicketless in the first innings, he picked up his first two test wickets in the second, claiming two big wickets of Tom Latham and Ross Taylor.
Whilst Ali had been picking up regular wickets, there has often be critics of position as the first choice spinner. Now, however, with Leach, England finally have a spinner. Leach bowled well throughout the game, picking up enough turn to trouble the batsmen despite a very batting-friendly pitch. As well as this, he got enough bounce to make it difficult for them.
Whilst England have been crying out for a spinner for a while, Leach also comes in as a left arm bowler – something else the side has been craving. Leach now adds a different, more effective dimension to the England bowling attack.
It’s very early days for Leach and, if he’s afforded the chance, it will be a big test for him if he faces India in the test series, but his introduction to the side makes England much more of a threat with the ball.
England’s top order get themselves another chance
Even when England have done well, their top order batsmen, as a collective unit, have consistently struggled. But, despite a wobbly first innings, saved by a century by Jonny Bairstow, all of them found themselves in the runs in the second innings.
Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root and Dawid Malan all made a half-century, with both Vince and Stoneman putting on a strong partnership after the early loss of Cook.
The runs come at a particularly good time, who finds himself just on the cusp of keeping his place. A couple of good scores in the Ashes, Vince, like Cook, seems to find himself being dismissed the exact same way in most innings.
But Vince looked confident in the second innings in Christchurch. Despite his cover drive often getting him into trouble, when he’s on form, he plays it better than anyone in the game at the moment. The real battle for Vince comes in his temperament; he needs to learn when and when not to play the shot.
It will be a tough challenge for the top order facing two string bowling attacks in the summer test matches against Pakistan and India, but they showed in the second test that, when firing, England have the base for a very good batting lineup.
England take on Pakistan in the first test match of the summer at Lords on 24th May.
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