New Zealand 375 (Latham 105, Mitchell 73, Watling 55, Broad 4-73) and 211 for 2 (Williamson 96*, Taylor 84*) lead England 476 (Root 226, Burns 101, Pope 75, Wagner 5-124) by 110 runs
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor capitalised on an end-of-term vibe on the final day at Hamilton, batting through the morning session – with the aid of some notable let-offs from England’s fielders – to all but ensure that New Zealand will claim the spoils in this two-Test series, thanks to their innings victory at Mount Maunganui last week.
By lunch, Williamson was 96 and Taylor 84, having brought up his 7000th Test run, and his 1000th at Seddon Park. They had begun the day with their side in a small amount of strife, still trailing by five runs overnight and knowing that a flurry of early wickets could yet have given England a chance to put their foot in the door on the final day of the series.
That prospect never materialised, as the combination of a lifeless wicket and a tired England attack combined to give both men a chance to bed in from the outset. Apart from the chance to close out a notable series win, the partnership, 183 by the break, was a vital chance for New Zealand’s two senior batsmen to get time in the middle before their next big encounter – the first Test against Australia in Perth that gets underway in just over a week’s time.
England opened their day’s work with Sam Curran and Ben Stokes in harness, the latter opting for a short-pitch assault from round the wicket to cramp both batsman for room. That tactic might have reaped an early reward in the fourth over of the day, when Williamson – on 39 – gloved a lifter down the leg side. Unfortunately, Ollie Pope behind the stumps was too flat-footed to take advantage, tumbling late to his left and shelling the opportunity.
If that was a bad miss, however, it was nothing compared to the incomparable low-light of the morning – a dropped catch so ghastly that it is sure to be replayed in Christmas compilations and Twitter memes for evermore.
The moment came in Jofra Archer’s third over of the morning, with Williamson by now on 62 and easing sweetly through his gears. Archer, who has endured a tough campaign with just a solitary wicket in each of the two Tests, decided the time was ripe to roll out his variations, rather than beat a hole in the middle of an unresponsive wicket and attempt to challenge the speed gun.
So out came a superbly subtle knuckleball – Archer even changed his grip midway through his run-up, then dropped his front arm in his delivery stride to add a further layer of bafflement to what was about to come. Williamson responded with a startled prod to midwicket, raising his hand in apology to his team-mate as the bowler set off on a victory gallop, arms outstretched and smile as wide as it has been all match.
But moments later, he was obliged to look back in horror and disbelief, as Joe Denly made an unfathomable Horlicks of an chance that an under-eights fielder would have been embarrassed to let through his fingers. The ball had lobbed to him as if being returned from the slip cordon at the end of an over – and it slipped like a buttered crumpet clean through his grasp.
It was an iconically desperate moment – quite possibly the easiest chance dropped by an England fielder since Mike Gatting shelled Kiran More at Madras in 1992-93, a lob off the splice that he tried to blame on the sun in his eyes. And the reactions were priceless. Stuart Broad threw his hands to his mouth in horror, Stokes at deep midwicket turned on his heel mid-celebration and averted his gaze. Williamson himself raised a quizzical eyebrow and allowed himself a wry grin.
And the effect of that let-off on what remained of England’s competitive juices was like a drawing pin on an inflatable dinghy. Denly himself entered the attack soon afterwards for an apologetic (but actually quite serviceable) six-over spell of legspin, and Chris Woakes came and went in another economical but fruitless burst.
The only real jeopardy for either batsman concerned the encroaching bad weather, and their own quest for milestones. Williamson – who was belatedly startled by a Stokes bouncer and rattled on the helmet – suddenly upped the ante with lunch approaching, pulling a brace of boundaries through square leg to race to 96. He’ll hope the rain stays away for a moment or two longer.
Cameron Green dampens hype around Australia prospects
Highly-rated Western Australia allrounder Cameron Green believes he ‘is a few good years’ from being ready for international cricket despite calls from Ricky Ponting for him to be included in Australia’s squad for the upcoming Test series against New Zealand.
Green, 20, made his second Sheffield Shield century in three matches in a thrilling win over South Australia. He also has two five-wicket hauls in just 11 first-class games and is averaging 37.71 with the bat and 21.53 with the ball, although he hasn’t bowled in the last two Shield games as a precaution after experiencing some back soreness earlier in the season. He already had a long history of back trouble and, at 200cm tall, he is being carefully managed by the medical staff.
Ponting told cricket.com.au that Green could be included in an extended squad against New Zealand, as a “left-field decision” to give the youngster a taste of the international environment without actually playing. This came days after Western Australia team-mate Marcus Stoinis said Green “could be the best allrounder Australia has had” during the match against South Australia.
However, Green was very quick to play down both sets of comments and dampened the excitement around his immediate international prospects.
“I did read that, [they are] incredibly nice words from Ricky,” Green said. “But I think it’s still a bit premature, to be honest. Obviously he’s got a pretty massive word in Australian cricket. But I think at the same time he said it would be a pretty left-field move, and I totally agree with that.
“I think it’s still way too early to be taking those comments pretty heavily. I’ve only played a couple of games as a batsman in the WA squad. I haven’t really got those runs on the board, to be honest. I may have got a couple of good scores out of the way, but I’m definitely a good few years off I’d say.”
Green, who was due to have another MRI on Tuesday, is still not bowling again and may have to wait until the BBL after experiencing back pain in the match against Queensland. He had fears of yet another stress fracture but the scans were clear.
“I thought it was pretty serious,” Green said. “I’ve had three or four back injuries in the past that actually didn’t hurt while doing everything else apart from bowling. This one, my back was actually pretty sore in the field and at home so I actually thought it was going to be a lot worse but the scan actually came up absolutely clear. My back was fine. I’m not really sure what was causing the pain but I was just sore.”
Green burst onto the scene in 2017 having been given a rookie contract by Western Australia while he was still at school in Perth. He took a five-wicket haul on Shield debut against Tasmania in Hobart and played twice more that summer, but further back trouble in 2017-18 meant he did not play any Shield cricket that season. He played four matches early last season but again was managed after the BBL break due to ongoing back issues.
However, despite not bowling at the moment Green still wants to be a genuine allrounder. “Coming through as a junior I’ve always seen myself as a genuine allrounder,” he said. “At times for WA, I was definitely a bowling allrounder, batting nine or ten and not scoring too many runs. So I’m pretty happy I’m getting a couple of runs out the way but in the future, I’d like to be a genuine allrounder.”
He has been gleaning as much advice as he can off Stoinis about the allrounder’s role. The pair shared a 122-run stand on day one against South Australia to dig WA out of a hole, but Green has paid more attention to Stoinis’ bowling. “He thinks about the game so much and every single time he gets a wicket I go up and ask did you change anything, just trying to take little hints of what he does,” Green said.
Green’s batting was a major strength as a junior. He was a top-order player all through his schoolboy and underage cricket and has three first-grade centuries batting high in the top six for his WACA Premier club Subiaco-Floreat. His fast-track to Shield level came through his raw ability with the ball rather than the bat, where from 200cm he can bowl at close to 140kph and swing the ball away from the right-handers with a semi side-in action.
But his run-glut this season comes as no surprise. He credits a minor technical adjustment, with a return to a more natural stance and set-up. Green is an extremely orthodox player and as a junior he batted with a traditional bat tap and late pick up, like his hero Ponting, but last season he veered away from that set up to stand still with his bat raised upon delivery which left him feeling a touch rigid.
“I think it’s just getting that confidence,” Green said. “I’ve always been able to hold the stick in a way, it was just having that confidence to do it at this level. As a junior growing up it was those steps from second grade to first grade, from first grade to Futures [League], and then Futures to Shield. It’s not always your ability, it’s probably more the confidence you’ve got that you can play at that level. Probably getting two scores out of the way probably gave me that confidence.”
‘Jofra Archer must keep wanting to learn’ – Joe Root
Joe Root, England’s captain, has backed Jofra Archer to learn his lessons quickly after a chastening first taste of overseas Test cricket, and believes that England will travel to South Africa for next month’s four-Test series all the better prepared for the challenge after two hard-fought Tests in New Zealand.
Archer endured a frustrating series, in what was his first experience of first-class cricket outside of England, let alone at the highest level. With his speeds noticeably down as he struggled to get to grips with the Kookaburra ball, he picked up two wickets across 82 overs in the two matches. His fortunes were epitomised on the final day in Hamilton, where Joe Denly dropped a sitter at midwicket to deny him the prize scalp of New Zealand’s captain, Kane Williamson.
Off the field he was distracted too, following an incident of racial abuse at Mount Maunganui that has led NZC to lodge an official complaint with the police. But speaking at the end of the series, Root reiterated that Archer, 24, is still very new to international cricket, and will continue to be an incredible asset to England if he carries on developing as he has done so far this year.
“I think he’s found that Test cricket is hard, and you’ve got to keep backing up those performances over and over again,” Root told Sky Sports. “You can sometimes bowl extremely well and get no reward.
“And he’s young,” Root added. “He’s right at the start of his career, and as I said at the start of the trip, there are big expectations on him. He’s still got a lot of learning to do, but one thing I know for sure is that he’s a fantastic talent and there’s no doubt he’s going to contribute massively for England in Test cricket.
“But he has to keep wanting to learn, and to stay nice and resilient mentally and physically as well, because these conditions can wear you down. I expect him to bounce back quite strongly from something like this, because he’s a fast learner. He’s proven that when he’s played domestic cricket around the world, in all these big franchise tournaments. Hopefully we’ll see see him back at his best soon.”
England’s selectors will name their squad for the South Africa tour over the weekend, and Root said that in spite of the series scoreline in New Zealand, they could take heart from the manner in which the side bounced back from their innings defeat in the first Test, and from the lessons they took from New Zealand’s star peformers – not least the Man of the Series, Neil Wagner, who claimed back-to-back five-fors on the unresponsive decks.
“I think we learned a lot about the group,” said Root. “Obviously the ideal scenario is perform extremely well, and come away with a 2-0 series win, so it’s not worked out how we would have liked, but [for South Africa] we’ve now seen what it can be like if the surfaces do get like this with the Kookaburra ball. And like we did at Mount Maunganui, we have to learn very quickly and take that forward into those four games.
“You’ve got to learn from the opposition as well,” he added. “You look at someone like Neil Wagner – he’s got a big heart, a big engine, and keeps running. And that’s what you want, you want guys who, time and time again, want to be putting themselves in that position, to keep wanting to create chances and keep trying to change the game.”
Wholesale changes for the tour of South Africa are unlikely, although James Anderson will doubtless return to the fray if he can prove his fitness after missing the bulk of the Ashes with a long-term calf injury. He is currently on a training camp in Potchefstroom with other potential selections, including Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow, whose omission from the New Zealand tour left Ollie Pope with the wicketkeeping duties at Hamilton after Jos Buttler suffered a back strain on the eve of the match.
Pope performed creditably in difficult circumstances, making a career-best 75 in England’s only innings, although he did drop a straightforward chance off Williamson on the final morning of the Test.
“Look, we didn’t expect Jos to go down as late as he did, but it does happen,” said Root. “And we knew that that could happen when we picked the squad. And, bar one mistake today, Ollie made a very good account of himself. He showed great maturity with the way he batted throughout his innings and proved why he got given that opportunity.”
“Jonny is out in South Africa practising,” Root added. “He’s obviously not played red-ball cricket or been given an opportunity to prove himself, in terms of match time, so he’s doing some work with a couple of coaches and facing those [bowlers], and make sure he’s match-hardened if he’s to be selected.”
One key decision will be the availability of Moeen Ali, who requested time away from red-ball cricket after a tough home summer, and who hinted to ESPNcricinfo last week that he is not yet sure he’s ready for a return to the Test arena. But, with England opting for an all-seam attack in Hamilton amid doubts about Jack Leach’s penetration with the ball, his prowess as a spin-bowling allrounder is still highly valued by his captain.
“I need to sit down and speak to Ed [Smith, selector], and to Moeen, and find out exactly what the situation is with Mo,” said Root. “One thing is for sure, we know how talented he is. We know what he has produced in Test cricket over his career. It’s very easy to look at small sample sizes that have happened more recently, but he’s a he’s a fine, fine player and I’m sure at some point, he’ll be back in and raring to go. But once those conversations have happened, I’ll give you a little bit more.”
Sophie Devine named WBBL player of the tournament
Sophie Devine, the Adelaide Strikers and New Zealand allrounder, has been named player of the tournament for this season’s WBBL after playing a starring role in the Strikers’ progress to finals weekend.
Devine currently tops the run-scoring with 699 at 77.66 and a strike-rate of 130.16 including eight half-centuries. Her 28 sixes puts her well ahead of the next best of 19 from Lizelle Lee. She also claimed 16 wickets at 20.25 and an economy rate of 6.35
With potentially two matches to play should the Strikers reach the final on Sunday, Devine has a chance of eclipsing Ellyse Perry’s record of 777 runs in last year’s tournament. At one stage during the regular season she went 207 deliveries without being dismissed.
Devine earned votes in 12 of the 14 matches she played, finishing 13 clear of Brisbane Heat’s Beth Mooney (35 votes) and Melbourne Renegade’s Danni Wyatt (33).
Votes were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis by the standing umpires at the end of each match meaning a player can receive up to six votes per match.
Of the players to top the voting only Perry, whose campaign was ended early by a shoulder injury, will not be appearing at finals weekend in Brisbane.
1 Sophie Devine (Adelaide Strikers) – 48 votes
2 Beth Mooney (Brisbane Heat) – 35 votes
3 Danni Wyatt (Melbourne Renegades) – 33 votes
4 Jess Duffin (Melbourne Renegades) – 31 votes
= Meg Lanning (Perth Scorchers) – 31 votes
= Ellyse Perry (Sydney Sixers) – 31 votes
5 Jess Jonassen (Brisbane Heat) – 27 votes
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