Richard Boock - A Kiwi view

James Anderson's heroiocs aside, New Zealand have again been the authors of their own misfortune in the third Test

Sunday, June 08, 2021
New Zealand wasting McCullum

Nottingham: James Anderson's heroiocs aside, New Zealand have again been the authors of their own misfortune in the third Test. They've bowled like drains, batted like drunks and even their fielding, once a perennial strong point, has been more slapstick than spotless.

And that's not even mentioning the selection. You get the feeling that for every problem or quandary that faces this team, the default answer will always be Brendon McCullum. The poor chap has been shunted from pillar to post in the batting order, and his promotion to No.3 in this third Test has cast yet another shadow over the coaching staff and their decision-making.

It was bad enough when the side opted to push the free-flowing McCullum up to No.5 to bolster an otherwise inexperienced top-order. But he was also named as the stand-by opening batsman should either of the incumbents need to be replaced, and then earned his promotion to first-drop on the strength of a back-injury that prevented him from keeping wicket.

To make matters worse, when New Zealand took the field after winning the toss, the incapacitated gloveman was charged with one of the most demanding duties in the field; standing at second slip _ a high-profile position in which he was singularly unfamiliar. No surprises then when he shelled a costly, regulation catch from the bat of Stuart Broad on the second day.

McCullum was under an injury cloud as the Trent Bridge showdown approached and should have been ruled out of contention, not withstanding his fighting 71 in the second innings. Perversely, he was instead cast in the role of an unlikely superman, despite the fact a specialist replacement in Peter Fulton was ready and waiting in the wings. It was a demented piece of thinking and ended predictably in abject failure.

You've got to hope that the penny will soon drop, and that the selectors will recognise that McCullum is a natural No.7 in the Test side, and that he should be allowed to work on establishing his reputation there, in much the same manner of his former Australian counterpart, Adam Gilchrist. At the moment he is being wasted, if not ruined. It cannot be allowed to continue.

For all that, nothing could be taken away from the performance of Anderson as England took a stranglehold on the match and the series. Much has been made of some of the New Zealanders losing their wickets playing across the line but, when a bowler is good enough to pitch on leg and hit off, the batsmen are often made to look like chumps.

Aaron Redmond and McCullum fell in this manner as Anderson cashed in on his finest performance of a 25-Test tenure. Having made his highest Test score (28) and featured in an eighth-wicket stand with the admirable Broad worth 76, he then took a career-best seven for 43 wickets to ensure New Zealand would have to follow on, 241 runs in arrears.|

But that did not happen as England found yet another hero in Ryan Sidebottom who helped them to race to yet another series win over the Black Caps.

Yet as well as Anderson bowled in the first innings, he was assisted in no small manner by some gormless New Zealand batting; some of it as panic stricken as that second innings debacle at Manchester.

Jamie How, after successfully negotiating the early maelstrom, inexplicably played at width; Ross Taylor again succumbed to recklessness and Jacob Oram fell to a limp-wristed waft outside off-stump.

Suddenly the decision to send the batting coach home and to replace him with a psychologist seemed to make perfect sense. But, during a match in which New Zealand were again made to look inadequate by a far from convincing opponent, it was one of the few things that did.