New Zealand are on the ascent and it’s good to see that happen. With their win at Headingley on Tuesday (June 2), New Zealand are showing the entire world that they are getting better in Test cricket. They have always produced good performances in One-Day Internationals, but now they’re showing they’re also capable of doing it in Test cricket.
Brendon McCullum has been a big influence. His aggressive style of cricket is the way forward for New Zealand. After the first Test match at Lord’s, a few people said he was too aggressive. I wasn’t necessarily in that camp, but I said then that perhaps at some point he could have had a less attacking field.
But then that’s the way McCullum plays. He wants to make sure that every single opportunity that comes New Zealand’s way, they can take it. When you have four to five people in the slip cordon –and especially at Headingley, you need that – you are making sure that you can take the catches as they come. Perhaps on a flatter pitch, he’ll have to re-adjust, and we may see a more defensive approach.
The shorter formats have influenced Test cricket to some degree, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it will not erode the game. Test cricket is merely progressing to the point where it’s a lot more entertaining than it used to be. We have had too many Test matches in the past that have meandered into draws. On good pitches, where everyone has a chance, you’ll see more and more results, and that is what you want to see in Test cricket. You want more results than draws.
I’m not saying people should go out there and play the sort of shots you see in 20-over games and 50-over games where people are backing away and hitting the ball over the wicketkeeper’s head and that sort of thing. I don’t think Test cricket will go that way. The more positive, the more aggressive cricket in Tests, the more entertaining it will be, and the more results you’ll get. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But for those suggesting that other teams adopt the New Zealand method of playing, one size doesn’t fit all. I don’t think you can say ‘West Indies should do this’ or ‘Australia should do this’ or ‘South Africa should do that’. It has to do with the ability of the people in the team. If you have the ability to bat that way and do it successfully, fine. If you don’t, you can’t.
There have been some standout performances from both teams. From the New Zealand camp, Trent Boult’s control has been especially impressive. He bowls very well to left-handed batsmen and of course, England had seven of them in their team. The one thing I’d love to see him do is develop a ball that goes in the other direction. He hasn’t much control over that delivery, the ball that comes in to the left-hander and away from the right-hander. But he certainly has been bowling well with the red ball and the white ball, which is good.
BJ Watling has also been impressive. He’s a wicketkeeper, and they played him as a batsman, but he showed that he’s capable of getting into this New Zealand team purely as a batsman. That’s a big plus for the side when he gets the gloves again.
Even Martin Guptill got two half-centuries in conditions quite helpful for the bowlers, and that’s a pretty good start. Obviously, he’d like to get more and as time goes on, he’ll get more Test runs.
Meanwhile, England have a good nucleus going forward. Mark Wood has shown good control coming into the team, and you can tell he really thinks about what he’s doing, the way he’s using the crease. That’s a big plus for them because I don’t think you can expect Stuart Broad and James Anderson to turn up and take all the wickets.
Another big positive was Ben Stokes’s batting. I’m yet to be convinced about his bowling, but he certainly can bat at No. 6 and the bowling can improve as time goes on. England have also found a partner for Alastair Cook in Adam Lyth. Cook has been looking down the pitch at several opening partners, so if Lyth can continue to get some runs, that would solve England’s opening dilemma.
I don’t agree with the idea that England were lacking a bit of ruthlessness in Headingley. After all, New Zealand had a first-innings lead of over 100 and ended up losing the first Test. In the second match, New Zealand took their catches. England did not take their catches. And that made a huge difference.
There is nothing that necessarily points to a lack of ruthlessness in either team because they lost a Test match. The two teams are evenly balanced, and 1-1 was a just reflection of the series because both teams played good cricket throughout. It was a good result.