26 May 2015

Black Caps lick their wounds after defeat by England

2:57 pm on 26 May 2015

OPINION: The Black Caps loss to England is a major disappointment, just whether it morphs into a major setback is yet to be determined.

BJ Watling completes a run holding his head after being hit by a Mark Wood delivery during the first Investec Test Match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground, London.

BJ Watling completes a run holding his head after being hit by a Mark Wood delivery in the first Test. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Going into this opening test things were panning out well for New Zealand, given the disarray England were supposedly in.

The England coach Peter Moores was sacked in the lead up after they had struggled in a drawn series in the Caribbean, against the West Indies.

Their woeful performance at the World Cup was still being talked about and the rejection by England officialdom of any possible comeback by Kevin Pietersen all added to the confusion.

Slumping to 30-4 on the opening day suggested it had all become too much for England.

But Joe Root and New Zealand born Ben Stokes turned around England's fortunes and got them back in the game.

Stokes made 92 in the first innings and followed that up with the fastest test century at Lord's in the second innings when he made 101, all eventually giving New Zealand a target of 345 to win on the final day.

The Black Caps though fell well short, out for 220 and unable to cling on for a draw.

Ben Stokes (right) and Alastair Cook celebrate Stokes scoring the fastest test century at Lord's.

Ben Stokes (right) and Alastair Cook celebrate Stokes scoring the fastest test century at Lord's. Photo: Photosport

It's easy to suggest the old bugbear of poor batting is to blame.

Yes, it certainly played its part.

But scoring 345 on the final day of a test was always going to be a struggle.

The Black Caps needed off spinner Mark Craig to be a threat in England's second innings. If he couldn't take wickets he needed to dry up runs at one end. Unfortunately he wasn't able to do either.

He needs to be a factor come the second test at Leeds starting on Friday.

The Black Caps need more from spinner Mark Craig come the second test at Leed's.

The Black Caps need more from spinner Mark Craig come the second test at Leed's. Photo: Photosport

Yes New Zealand's second innings batting effort was poor and it was reminscent of past problems.

The key to New Zealand's resurgence in the past 18 months has been the ability to build an opening partnership followed up by Kane Williamson being the backbone of the innings and regular contributions from others.

But come the second innings none of the top four got past 30 and skipper Brendon McCullum in at six, went first ball, both McCullum and Williamson dismissed by man of the match and former New Zealander Ben Stokes.

From there on they were pushing water uphill with a rake.

New Zealand born Ben Stokes at the centre of England celebrations.

New Zealand born Ben Stokes at the centre of England celebrations. Photo: Photosport

The Black Caps will now be measured on how they respond to this loss. Writing them off and saying 'normal service has resumed' would be unfair. They're a better side than what they have shown here.

Remember this is only their third test loss in the past two years.

There also needs to be a reality check in that while New Zealand has risen to three on the world rankings they are never going to be world beaters at test level.

Sitting at number three may well have given them vertigo.

What New Zealand cricket followers want to see from the side is a competitive edge, resilience and fight.

The Black Caps have delivered that in recent times.

Skipper Brendon McCullum has said they won't be changing their approach come the second test at Headingly.

But for New Zealand to continue to build on the advances they have made they need to at least draw the test if not win it.

A second straight loss would definitely mark a step backwards, it would also mark a significant slide down the test rankings - dropping from third to seven.

The Black Caps last test win at Lord's was 17 years ago, their last test win at Leed's though was 32 years ago in 1983 and was part of New Zealand's first test series win in England.

In the two tests at Headingly since then, in 2003 and 2013, England have won comprehensively.

Sports teams talk about peaks and troughs, lets hope what we have seen from the Black Caps over the past 18 months wasn't the peak, otherwise its downhill from here....how about we take some time on the plateau to take in the view?

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