England could not force win on the final day against New Zealand A, they batted long and deep, in accordance with Joe Root’s mission declaration before the game.
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The last time England had reached 400 in a Test was in their second innings against India at the Oval the last time they had made 400 in their first innings was at Melbourne on a wearisome pitch.
Specifically, it was Jos Buttler, back as wicketkeeper/bat, and Ollie Pope who set up the lead of 103, before New Zealand batted out the final day, just.
It was only the sixth century Buttler has scored in first-class cricket but he has not been idle these 29 years, as he has made eleven more in white-ball.
“It was a tough summer, physically and emotionally, great fun and a huge challenge and one you look back on with real fondness but it took a lot out of most of us I’d say,” Buttler reflected.
I had a couple of net sessions. I actually went down to Somerset to work with Marcus Trescothick, he’d obviously been around in the summer and someone I know really well.
I spoke to him about doing a few sessions, which I thought was brilliant, really enjoyed that and got a lot out of it. It gave some building blocks to coming here and feeling in good touch.
We spoke a lot about the game-plan as well. You look around the world, there are so many different techniques, I don’t think there is a right technique.
In addition to his stand of 114 with Pope, Buttler shared another of 71 with Jofra Archer. Archer’s batting fell away last summer, in the inevitable course of things.
It was important he made his first score of note for England; and he has all the shots, the most handsome a back-foot cover-drive. In adding 50 with Buttler, Archer contributed 32 as a senior partner.
If England’s Test top order continues to be not so very profitable, at their reduced tempo, opposing bowlers will be at least warier in the future by the time the fifth wicket goes down.
Such is England’s depth that Stuart Broad, who aggregates more than 3000 in Tests, is number eleven. This is probably a record of a sort but here it was more relevant that he batted like a number eleven.
England’s bowlers, armed with that handsome lead, pitched the new ball up against the upper order of New Zealand A and harried the lower order with bouncers.
They missed Hamish Rutherford, an accomplished opener, who had been concussed in the opening session by Archer and replaced, not by a batsman as there was no other in the home side’s squad, but by the fast bowler Scott Kuggeleijn.
“He was pretty quick. He’s got an incredible skill to go up and down the gears. I’m sure he’s not got to full tilt yet, he’ll be saving that for the Tests, but he has some serious attributes and, even at 80-90% he gets it down at a fair pace.”
Sam Curran, a little crestfallen, maybe at his lack of wickets hitherto in Whangarei, perked up and started throwing his arms in the air again when he took three.
He must have sealed his place for the first Test ahead of Chris Woakes. He would have had another wicket but for Root dropping a catch at leg-slip, and the captain missed a second high to his left at first slip.
These two misses left England too little time to dislodge Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel, tough old spinners who have played a few Tests.
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