New Zealand 375 (Latham 105, Mitchell 73, Watling 55, Broad 4-73) and 211 for 2 (Williamson 96*, Taylor 84*) lead England 476 (Root 226, Burns 101, Pope 75, Wagner 5-124) by 110 runs
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor capitalised on an end-of-term vibe on the final day at Hamilton, batting through the morning session – with the aid of some notable let-offs from England’s fielders – to all but ensure that New Zealand will claim the spoils in this two-Test series, thanks to their innings victory at Mount Maunganui last week.
By lunch, Williamson was 96 and Taylor 84, having brought up his 7000th Test run, and his 1000th at Seddon Park. They had begun the day with their side in a small amount of strife, still trailing by five runs overnight and knowing that a flurry of early wickets could yet have given England a chance to put their foot in the door on the final day of the series.
That prospect never materialised, as the combination of a lifeless wicket and a tired England attack combined to give both men a chance to bed in from the outset. Apart from the chance to close out a notable series win, the partnership, 183 by the break, was a vital chance for New Zealand’s two senior batsmen to get time in the middle before their next big encounter – the first Test against Australia in Perth that gets underway in just over a week’s time.
England opened their day’s work with Sam Curran and Ben Stokes in harness, the latter opting for a short-pitch assault from round the wicket to cramp both batsman for room. That tactic might have reaped an early reward in the fourth over of the day, when Williamson – on 39 – gloved a lifter down the leg side. Unfortunately, Ollie Pope behind the stumps was too flat-footed to take advantage, tumbling late to his left and shelling the opportunity.
If that was a bad miss, however, it was nothing compared to the incomparable low-light of the morning – a dropped catch so ghastly that it is sure to be replayed in Christmas compilations and Twitter memes for evermore.
The moment came in Jofra Archer’s third over of the morning, with Williamson by now on 62 and easing sweetly through his gears. Archer, who has endured a tough campaign with just a solitary wicket in each of the two Tests, decided the time was ripe to roll out his variations, rather than beat a hole in the middle of an unresponsive wicket and attempt to challenge the speed gun.
So out came a superbly subtle knuckleball – Archer even changed his grip midway through his run-up, then dropped his front arm in his delivery stride to add a further layer of bafflement to what was about to come. Williamson responded with a startled prod to midwicket, raising his hand in apology to his team-mate as the bowler set off on a victory gallop, arms outstretched and smile as wide as it has been all match.
But moments later, he was obliged to look back in horror and disbelief, as Joe Denly made an unfathomable Horlicks of an chance that an under-eights fielder would have been embarrassed to let through his fingers. The ball had lobbed to him as if being returned from the slip cordon at the end of an over – and it slipped like a buttered crumpet clean through his grasp.
It was an iconically desperate moment – quite possibly the easiest chance dropped by an England fielder since Mike Gatting shelled Kiran More at Madras in 1992-93, a lob off the splice that he tried to blame on the sun in his eyes. And the reactions were priceless. Stuart Broad threw his hands to his mouth in horror, Stokes at deep midwicket turned on his heel mid-celebration and averted his gaze. Williamson himself raised a quizzical eyebrow and allowed himself a wry grin.
And the effect of that let-off on what remained of England’s competitive juices was like a drawing pin on an inflatable dinghy. Denly himself entered the attack soon afterwards for an apologetic (but actually quite serviceable) six-over spell of legspin, and Chris Woakes came and went in another economical but fruitless burst.
Aside from a Stokes bouncer that rattled Williamson on the helmet, and another iteration of the pair’s sketchy running between the wickets, the only real jeopardy for either batsman concerned the encroaching bad weather, and their own quest for milestones. Williamson suddenly upped the ante with lunch approaching, pulling a brace of boundaries through square leg to race to 96. He’ll hope the rain stays away for a moment or two longer.
Josh Hazlewood limps off early in New Zealand innings
Josh Hazlewood appears unlikely to be able to bowl again in the Perth Test after suffering a left hamstring strain two balls into his second over of New Zealand’s first innings.
He aborted his run-up and looked distraught as he slowly made his way to the dressing room. It was confirmed he would be having scans in the evening. In all likelihood his Test was over and Australia will have to push for victory with just two frontline quicks in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
However, they gave themselves a headstart in that aim by having New Zealand 5 for 109 at the close after Starc claimed three wickets in his second spell, including the key scalp of Kane Williamson thanks to a brilliant catch at slip by Steven Smith, after he had removed Tom Latham in the opening over of the innings.
“It’s never nice seeing anyone go down, especially one of your best mates,” Starc said. “Not sure how the scans have come back, hopefully there’s some positivity out of that. It makes it tough, a bowler down, it certainly was for the Kiwis with Ferguson. The plus side is we have them five-for tonight and hopefully for Josh it’s not too bad. If it is going to keep him out then hopefully it’s not too big a break to get the hammy right.
Australia have played the same side in the first three Tests of the season. They enforced the follow-on against Pakistan in Adelaide, which meant a heavy workload for the quicks, but there was a week between the end of that Test and the start in Perth. Hazlewood returned to the Test side for the second match of the Ashes in August after having suffered a stress fracture of the back in January.
His injury in Perth came amid a dramatic start to New Zealand’s innings, as they lost both openers inside two overs. Latham was rushed by Starc and got a leading edge back to the bowler, and then the out-of-form Jeet Raval played around a beautiful inswinger from Hazlewood to leave them two down with just one run on the board.
Williamson and Ross Taylor managed to lead a recovery but Starc’s return in the closing stages of the day changed the complex of the match as he found Williamson’s edge, had Henry Nicholls caught down the leg side and bowled nightwatchman Neil Wagner first ball.
It continued an impressive season for Starc who is once again a lock in the Test team having only played once in the Ashes. He has so far claimed 20 wickets and feels he now has better control in Test cricket than at any time in his career following the early-season work he did with New South Wales bowling coach Andre Adams to make a small adjustment to his delivery stride.
“I think it probably is [my best control],” he said. “I think those little technical changes I made at the start of the summer have been a big part of that. I’m finding less can go wrong when I’m more compact and having that ball on my back hip.
“There was a big conscious effort to be more economical as a group through the Ashes so taking a little bit out of that, but also the technical changes have helped me not sacrifice any pace but be more consistent. It probably helps play a part in the group for the other guys as well, whereas in the past I’ve perhaps leaked runs at certain stages and the other guys have had to work a little harder. Nice to still be able to bowl but keep the runs at a controlled rate.”
With Australia likely to have a depleted attack for the rest of this Test, those qualities will be needed even more.
Mark Boucher set to be named South Africa’s interim coach
Mark Boucher, the former South Africa wicketkeeper and current Titans coach, will be unveiled as South Africa’s interim coach by acting director of cricket Graeme Smith on Saturday. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that interim team director Enoch Nkwe will stay on and work with Boucher; a source said the pair is “keen to work together”.
The Boucher news comes two days after Smith was named director of cricket for three months. A key part of Smith’s job was to appoint coaching staff for the men’s national team as it prepares to take on England at the turn of the year. There was doubt over whether Nkwe, who was appointed in August, would stay on under Smith, but that question seems to be cleared up for now.
It is also likely that former South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis will be named batting coach in the near future.
The involvement of former South Africa internationals will extend to the A side, where Ashwell Prince has accepted a role. Prince is also understood to be on a selection panel that will include Boucher, captain Faf du Plessis and former convenor of selectors Linda Zondi, who has been approached to work as an independent selector. This means CSA will not appoint a full-time convener just yet, as they had planned to do in the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup, when the tenure of Zondi and his panel came to an end. It is not yet known when the new panel will announce the squad to face England in a series that starts in under two weeks.
Boucher was appointed Titans coach in August 2016 and is in his fourth season in charge there. In that time, the franchise has won one first-class trophy, two one-day cups and two T20 tournaments. They have also had Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Heinrich Klaasen and Tabraiz Shamsi go on to gain international caps in that time.
Boucher, a veteran of 147 Tests, 295 ODIs and 25 T20Is before an eye injury ended his career, will take over at a time of strife for South Africa on and off the field. South Africa have lost five Test matches in a row following a forgettable performance at the 2019 World Cup, CSA’s CEO stands suspended over allegations of misconduct, and the board is under mounting pressure to revamp itself. The board has already seen four resignations – of three independent directors and one provincial president – and is set for more. Matters could come to a head on Monday, when an urgent sitting of the CSA board and Members’ Council, which consists of the 14 provincial presidents, will take place ahead of the Mzansi Super League final in Paarl.
Buttler, Stokes and Archer back for South Africa T20Is, no room for Root
England have named four uncapped players in their ODI squad to face South Africa, while recalling the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the T20I series to follow. Moeen Ali and Jason Roy return in both white-ball formats after being rested for the New Zealand tour, but there was no room in the T20I squad for Joe Root.
Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson have all been picked in 50-over cricket for the first time – though only Brown and Parkinson retained their T20I spots. Of the group that beat New Zealand 3-2 last month, Sam Billings, James Vince and Lewis Gregory also miss out.
The three-match ODI series, starting on February 4 at Cape Town, will be England’s first involvement in the format since lifting the World Cup in July. Eoin Morgan remains as captain, with Dawid Malan winning a recall after his excellent T20I form and Chris Jordan and Sam Curran also included, having last won ODI caps in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
The squad contains eight members of the World Cup-winning group. Mark Wood is also rested, alongside Buttler, Stokes and Archer; Liam Dawson has once again been overtaken by Joe Denly as the spinning allrounder; and England appear to have moved on from Vince and Liam Plunkett.
The four new faces were all involved, to varying degrees of success, in New Zealand. Banton scored 56 runs in three innings, at a strike rate of 164.70, Parkinson claimed a four-wicket haul in his second game, while Brown and Mahmood picked up three wickets each. In List A cricket, Banton scored two hundreds as Somerset won the 2019 Royal London Cup; Lancashire’s Mahmood was the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 28 at 18.50.
England will also play three T20Is in South Africa and they have prioritised the shortest format ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. The absence of Root suggests his chances of involvement are receding, with England well-stocked for top-order batting options.
“These two squads were selected with an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020,” England’s national selector, Ed Smith, said. “In the T20s, a number of players who were rested for the successful 3-2 victory in New Zealand return to the squad: Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy.
“We want to expand the pool of players who can perform successfully for England, while also helping the team to peak for major tournaments.”
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes
England T20I squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood
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