Welcome back to 1999. My career as England manager has been a disaster. We didn’t make it out of the group stage at the World Cup. A test series against New Zealand was supposed to be my chance to prove I’m not a total idiot. But here we stand 3 tests later and 1-0 down. We were one dropped catch away from making it 1-1 but that and a rain shower denied us. The 3rd test was poor. But now, we drink at the last chance saloon. The sun is shining. We are ready.
Vince Wells is injured. I’ve had enough of Tuffers. Alan Mullally is all I need. That and Adam Hollioake. Bulbeck is also injured, it’s a decimation. Here’s what we’re going with:
It’s harsh on Fraser as he’s relatively in form but he hasn’t pulled up any trees for me. I need those trees.
New Zealand are without Vettori… or any spinner for that matter. The pitch wear is very good so it’s probably fair but I like to have the option, even if it is Ashley Giles.
We lose the toss and New Zealand bat. That’s ominous. Caddick though gives not one fuck about that. The troublesome openers are both back in the hutch and when Bicknell tempts Harris to edge behind, they are 43-3 and things might be looking up.
99 runs later, I’m immensely relieved to see the back of Fleming thanks to Caddick. We’re chipping away and at 263-8, I’m very happy. Tait and number 10 Davis coast to a 100 partnership and I’m tearing my hair out. Mullally and Caddick bring the innings to a close on 375, about 75 more than they should have. Caddick has 6-90. We’re still in with a chance.
They are still favourable batting conditions as Atherton and Stewart head out just after lunch on day two. Atherton stupidly runs himself out, which is not what we need from one of our form men. But Stewart and Hick knuckle down and there are contributions from the rest of the top 6 for possibly the first time ever. Only Hick makes 100 though whilst Crawley and Thorpe manage to pass 50, but it’s a start. 397 is a lead. A slender lead. But it’s not something we usually have.
All we have to do is skittle New Zealand for something relatively modest and then we’ll win. Caddick is approaching hero status when he gets Bell very cheaply and Hollioake accounts for Horne for 38. Caddick returns to remove Harris and Mullally gets in on the action to remove McMillan. That’s 157-4, a lead of 135, but Fleming is still there and building nicely. He and Sinclair, always bloody Sinclair, rebuild the innings and by the time we eventually get Fleming for 112 the lead is over 200. Even Mullally gets two in an over to remove Sinclair and Young, the lead is barelt 240 but the tail wags for another 30 runs which extends the lead and also eats into the time we have to knock these runs off. Eventually, the declatation comes. We need lots in not long.
We have 75 overs to score 282. It’s doable but it’s also very likely we’ll lose if we go aggressive too early. Atherton looks determined, how I wish he hadn’t ran himself out in the 1st innings. Stewart gets a useless 10. Atherton and Hick rebuild to 62 but then disaster happens as Davis removes Hick, Crawley and Ramprakash with the score barely increased. 72-4. Why me?
Sewell snares Atherton on 120 and we need a miracle. Thankfully, Graham Thorpe and Adam Hollioake seem up for it. Cautiously at first they begin to rebuild before slowly getting more aggressive. They are still their at tea. Can we do it?
Thorpe goes for 78 with the score at 239-6. I wish I’d picked Goughy now as he can smash it a bit but that honour falls to Bicknell, who manages a meaty boundary before departing. The aggression bars are turned up to the max with Giles instructed to get off strike. Hollioake is the man but New Zealand have their fielders out on the boundary. He reaches 81 but we’ve ran out of overs. 267-7 is a good effort but just like our 50 over efforts, we’ve come up short. Another draw. A series defeat.
I’m inconsolable. We’ve done enough to win two of these tests but have fallen agonisingly short in both. We really are the worst team in the world. Where do we go from here?
The answer is actually South Africa, in the winter. The November series in South Africa is bound to kick us in the crotch some more so I’ll probably stick around to bring you that before I am fired. It can’t get any worse surely?