After almost total humiliation in our own World Cup, a test series with New Zealand should have represented a chance to rebuild some of my soiled reputation. Instead, we lost by 193 runs. Sigh. Enough of this. It’s time to shake things up.
Nasser Hussain is injured. Good. I’m calling up Jon Crawley of Lancashire. Alan Wells? Goodbye. I need more bowling options so Martin Bicknell is in. Bicknell is prolific in county cricket but made 2 Test appearances against Australia in 1993. He would go on to play again in 2003, 10 years after his last which is a record. A record I have now ruined. Anyway, Dean Headley misses out as he’s terribly out of form.
The conditions look tricky for batting in but likewise, I don’t want to face Vettori in the final innings as that pitch is going to wear pretty quickly.
We’ve single-handedly made Bell one of the world’s best batsmen.
We win the toss and I decide to bat. It’s risky but if we can post a competitive total the pitch will only get worse from here. Stewart departs early but Atherton drops anchor and Hick motors on. The partnership is worth 70 when Hick departs, which brings in Crawley. He’s in good touch and we’re nearing 200 when Atherton is finally out for 74, closely followed by Crawley for 66 and then Ramprakash for 3. That’s a shame. 212/5 nudges along thanks to Thorpe and later Bicknell, who scores 31 and gets us close to 300. 295 is not great though but it’s a start. Sewell takes 5 and continues to cause us problems.
Scoring was slow and it’s taken us until midway through session 2 on the 2nd day but if you look at the icons along the bottom…look at that wear. Tuffers is going to love it.
Caddick and Gough are a poor new ball pair. They just don’t pose a threat. Horne and Bell put on 68 before Tuffers comes on and gets Horne stumped. Bicknell takes a neat caught and bowled to get rid of Fleming and Tuffers strikes again to remove Bell. 75/3 is good for us but now we need to turn the screw. That pesky middle order strikes again though, McMillan and Sinclair put on 50 before your hero and mine Wellsey clean bowls McMillan. Bicknell traps Young for 71 to finally get us into the tailenders. Somehow we let 238/7 get to the 311 all out. It’s a slight lead for New Zealand but I wouldn’t want to bat last on that.
The rest of day three amount to about 4 overs but we lose the start of day four to rain. Atherton and Stewart remain unmoved and rack up 124 before Stewart departs to Vettori. Hick and Crawley barely contribute and Atherton follows for 88 to leave us 182/4 but that lead is healthy. Ramps gets a well-timed 50, well supported by Thorpe and the lead passes 250. Bicknell does some late clubbing and when Ramprakash holes out for 60 towards lunch on day 5, it’s time to have a bowl. New Zealand need 278.
The pitch is a minefield. I’ve got the aggression right up knowing fine well the target is achievable if New Zealand go for it but likewise I need them to take chances. Horne takes one from Caddick and departs injured, never to return. Bell and Fleming resist but Tuffers is here to get rid of both and Bicknell gets Harris. 110/3. Bicknell is like a man possessed, McMillan and Sinclair are both removed before tea and 145/5 is really 6 without Horne. The evening session separates us from victory. Bicknell and Tufnell are bowling end to end, there’s no need for change. There goes Doull, 153/6. O’Connor is bowled for 2 and Vettori edges behind. 183/8, which is really 9. One wicket to go and 8 overs. Bicknell has 5/48 but is gasping for air on the boundary. He can bowl no more. Goughy, it’s down to you. Young has been a nuisance across all 4 of his innings’ to date. Three dot balls before finally the edge comes. Yes!
Not yes. The fucker in the slips drops it. The remainder of the over is eventless and then the heavens open. It’s a draw. Sigh.
AAAARRRRGGGHHHH we might never win again. Bicknell was outstanding. Nearly the perfect performance with everybody contributing something…except Goughy. His place is up for grabs. Maybe it’s time for Alan Mullally? First though I’m going for a long, long walk.