England skipper Joe Root defended his side’s decision to bat out a draw on Day 5 and insisted that, though his team had talent, the conditions rendered it impossible to play aggressively. Chasing 273 in 75 overs, England shut shop early and scored 170/3 off 70 overs to walk away with a draw.
New Zealand’s sporting declaration on Day 5 earned the respect of the cricketing fraternity and thus with the equation reading ‘273 needed to win off 75 overs’, a vast majority expected England to go for the chase. However, anti-climax ensued as Joe Root’s men instead decided to shut shop from ball one. As the Kiwis went for the kill with the ball, England were content with leaving and blocking. None of the Top 4 batters showed intent and Dom Sibley, astonishingly, finished on 60 off 207 balls, striking at a mere 28.99.
England’s approach meant that Day 5 came to a boring halt, but it also meant that the home side came under severe criticism from several experts and former cricketers, who expressed discontent with the Three Lions’ showing.
But despite the widespread criticism, skipper Joe Root defended his side post the end of play. Root insisted that the conditions, which according to him where skewed in favour of the bowlers, made it impossible to score runs quickly, and asserted that it was not practically possible for the hosts to go for the win.
“We tried to lay a platform at the start, but unfortunately didn't materialize the way we would have liked. It would have been easy to go hard early today, but it was a tricky wicket,” Root said in the aftermath of the draw.
“We felt we didn't have enough overs to go for it. It was about the conditions more than the talent in the dressing room. Once that decision was made to close the day out and play for a draw, we had to make sure we weren't silly as batters.”
Root also reserved special praise for England’s pace battery and opener Rory Burns. While all of Robinson, Wood, Anderson and Broad did a laudable job after a tough day at the office on Day 1, Burns’ sensational ton in the first innings ensured that the hosts did not surrender the contest.
“It was an easy decision to leave out a spinner when you have such a great battery of fast bowlers. They did a fantastic job. Rory did a fantastic job. The way he played was phenomenal, coming back into the side and carrying his form from Surrey,” Root said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson felt that the two teams could have squeezed out a result if not for the washout on Day 3. New Zealand added over 100 runs in the first session of Day 5 to try and enforce a result, and Williamson revealed that the sporting declaration was also partly down to the English weather.
“Obviously we had a little bit of work to do before declaration. The guys came out and hit hard and the weather forced the declaration a little bit. The wicket was deteriorating, and had it not been for that lost day, we would've had a cracking finish. Scoring was reasonably slow throughout the day, and all in all, with only four days, some fantastic cricket was played,” Williamson said.
The New Zealand skipper further lavished praise on the duo of Devon Conway and Tim Southee, who were integral in the Kiwis staying on top throughout the first Test. Conway, on debut, struck a mind-boggling 200, while the evergreen Tim Southee claimed his 12th five-wicket haul en route running through England in the first innings.
“Incredibly special performance from Conway. A special player, he's come into the side and shown his class. He played within himself, he's a brilliant player and it is an incredible feat. Incredible contribution from Tim Southee as well. He led the attack brilliantly and the guys around him contributed as well.”