After a rain-curtailed day, the focus was on how well English batsmen’s defence could hold up against the rattling and intimidating New Zealand bowling attack. As it turned out, Tim Southee’s fifer combined with Kyle Jamieson’s three-fer restricted the hosts to 275, for a 1st innings lead of 103.
Tim Southee and New Zealand’s immaculate bowling plans
When New Zealand walked out on day four, the sun was bright and shining and they had lost one valuable day in the larger scheme of things. But that didn’t stop them from getting their plans right, from the word ‘go,’ the first ball. Kyle Jamieson used the width of the crease, going from wide of the bowling crease to get the ball to angle into the right-handed Root, on a good length. That not only had Root planted to his batting crease but also made him fetch the ball, which led to the edge, in a simple dismissal.
However, what followed that was just a sign of what experience can do, especially in conditions that favour seam bowling. Tim Southee showed his experience in setting up the youngster Ollie Pope with balls outside the off-stump, drawing him into the off-side before bringing the ball back into the right-hander, to catch him plumb in front. According to Cricviz, his delivery swung 1.27 degrees, to beat the youngster’s defence. In the first session today, Southee had picked up three wickets, with 16% of his deliveries hitting the stump. It wasn’t just hitting the stumps, it was also moving through the air, 1.3 degrees of swing on average, according to Cricviz.
Attacking lengths, experience and control over his bowling allowed not just Tim Southee to flourish but put New Zealand in commanding position after day three’s play was washed away due to rain.
Ollie Pope and the backfiring front-shuffle
Walking into the Test summer, Ollie Pope had to prove a point as well, just like his Surrey teammate and skipper Rory Burns. In the County season leading into the long summer, he did just that, with 555 runs at an average of 61.66, ahead of Burns. More than that, he drew the eyeball in his direction, on the back of his changed technique, taking his guard on the off-stump rather than the middle-stump that he used to take last summer. The major reason behind it was to make the bowlers bowl to his strength, which was flicking it to the leg-side. Another possible advantage was it allowed him to take full control of his shots - on or offside.
Fascinated to see how Pope sets up today. We’ve seen him move across his crease as his career has progressed. This move has seen his % runs on the leg side rise but it’s not yet translated into getting out LBW more often - but he was pinned v Middlesex last week. #ENGvNZ pic.twitter.com/tolyKI2LSn— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) June 5, 2021
However, it backfired a few times in the County, when he was rapped in front of the stumps, exposing his new technique. But it didn’t expose him enough to go back to the square-old route. On day four, it was a visible challenge for him to battle that late in-swinger from Tim Southee, who made the fullest use of the technical weakness. His head, as visible, was too far across, which didn’t put him in the best position to tackle late swing, which in turn, resulted in a simple dismissal for the New Zealand team.
While Pope might try to emulate Steve Smith and his technique as much as he wants but it will always backfire until he controls that front-shuffle of his to tackle the late swing. The trade-offs need to be somewhere if he wants to find a balance between tackling the in-swinger and the out-swinger.
England’s wagging-tail rains on New Zealand’s parade
At 140/6, when James Bracey was sent back by a fizzling delivery from Tim Southee, the last ray of hope was on the shoulders of Rory Burns. But the company wasn’t quite what he would have liked - Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad - and James Anderson. Yet, Burns remained unfazed at the crease, rotating strikes very cleverly, taking control of the situation as the New Zealand bowlers started to tire out. Especially his partnership with Robinson is what set the English day apart, with the all-rounder scoring 101-ball 42, with five boundaries while Burns continued to slug it out at the other end.
Even when Mark Wood was dismissed for a three-ball 0, the presence of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, both of whom played 44 deliveries, not only allowed the Surrey-man to score his maiden century at the venue, his second against New Zealand and his third in the longest format but also allowed England to get valuable runs at the end of the innings. From staring at a first-innings deficit of 238 runs, the wagging tail, along with Burns allowed the Three Lions to reduce the deficit to just 103 runs, which at the end of the day halted New Zealand’s chances of a possible victory after day three was washed out.