Well that went well. A group stage exit in the World Cup – held on home soil – was nothing short of disastrous for my England team. But now, as the calendar turns to June, it’s time for the real saving grace. The pinnacle of the sport. 5 days of fun. The first test against New Zealand.

Maybe limited overs isn’t for us. The chess match style of a 5 day slog might be more our thing. Yeah. Let’s go with that. I’m invited to pick a 12 man squad on the day of the game. A fact I could bemoan but in reality they could have given me 6 months notice and I wouldn’t be any better off. More counties have played between 6 and 9 matches, so I’m picking a squad largely on what I know works with maybe the odd surprise thrown in.

I overlooked Mike Atherton from the one day side but he’s in alongside Stewart at the top of the order, with Hick, Thorpe, Ramprakash and Hussain in as batting options. Vince Wells, the ultimate cricketer, retains his place after his World Cup performances and there’s a place for Alan Wells, who has somehwat remarkably clocked up 1161 runs in the Championship from 16 innings. It’s more than anybody else by at least 400. He’s up for consideration.

The bowlers are a similar case. Caddick, Gough and Tufnell retained. Dean Headley added to the mix. That’s my 12, the shirts are theirs to lose and I’m sure most of them will let me down.

A cloudy opening followed by some sunny spells. To me, that means you want to have a bowl at them and then bat in the nice conditions. Batting last might be tricky but the pitch is good so hopefully we can make the most of the overcast conditions early on.

We won the toss! Wonders never cease. I stick New Zealand in and on paper, we should win this. I’m a bit worried about a couple of their batsmen but it’s nothing we can’t handle. I’ve gone for Wells over Nasser too. I’m just not feeling Nasser, but the door is never shut. We’ve done enough losing on home soil this summer, it’s time to buck that trend.

Naturally, New Zealand put on 158 for the first wicket and we’re under the cosh from the very first session. Sigh. Gough eventually bowls Bell and Fleming follows shortly afterwards. By the time Horne falls two short of a century we’ve fought back to 208/3. A couple of wickets now and the pressure is really on… Who am I kidding? A 94 run partnership later and we’re in danger of being batted out of the game. McMillan gets 107 before Vincey bowls him. In the end it is relief to get them out for 416. From 302/3 I expected the worst.

Stewart can only manage 10 in reply but Hick joins Atherton and they put on 139. Maybe everything will be fine will be a disaster forever. Atherton, Hick, Thorpe and Alan Wells depart as we lose 4 wickets for 3 runs. Wellsy is ran out by Ramprakash without facing. Give me strength. Vince Wells though, my oh my. He and Ramps put on 101 to restore some pride but from 267/5 we end up 312 all out. Why bother?

There’s still a session on day 3 and we actually come out firing. Horne clean bowled by Caddick before the Somerset paceman hits Bell on the hand and he’s forced off. A retired hurt never returns in this game, so they’re two down. The pitch is starting to turn so Tufnell and Hick take the bowling for the remainder of the day. Tuffers finally getting Fleming to give us some hope.

The problem is, our bowling isn’t very threatening. We’re able to stem the flow of runs but seldom look like taking a wicket. Even with the top order removed, Sinclair and Young both help themselves to half centuries and the New Zealand total of 306 means we need over 400 to win. Tufnell finishes with 4 but like the first innings, no other bowler can take more than 2.

In reply, well we lose three wickets with the score on 9. Sewell didn’t even have a bowling average coming into this game but he’s ripped my top order out here. Thorpe and Atherton slowly rebuild as I tell them to play for time. The pitch is turning square now. Vettori bowls constantly, eventually getting Thorpe caught at slip. Alan Wells stumped and not even Vincey can save this shower. Atherton continues on though, unflustered by the morons around him. Headley and Gough provide good company and we’re within an hour and a half of a draw but wickets are running out.  When Gough goes for 41, Andy Caddick joins Atherton and he can only manage 4. Atherton has 98 but with Tufnell at the other end and an hour to survive, he is trapped LBW and trudges off. It’s a heavy defeat.

If this IS our preferred version of this great sport then we are in a lot of trouble. It’s a 4 test series. It’s time to make some bold selections. See you next time.