Cricket: Placid pitches hamstring English attack

By David Leggat


The frustrations of England's seamers were laid bare last night.


With all the indications New Zealand and England will battle out a decider at Eden Park this week, England's bowling coach David Saker made plain the tourists' feelings at the type of pitches served up for the first two tests.


Given their respective world rankings of No8 and No2, this was expected to be a relatively straightforward job for England.


But they were outplayed in the first test of the ANZ international series in Dunedin on a pitch which died over the last two days and with weather cutting play back to just 35 overs at the Basin Reserve yesterday, and a grim forecast for the final day today, it's likely to all rest on Eden Park, and by extension the type of pitch produced.


A cup final scenario, Victorian Saker called it, and agreed 0-0 going to Eden Park would be a fair reflection of the series so far, but he's unimpressed with the quality of the pitches.


"If you watched the T20s and one-day internationals [which started the tour] they were played on very good, fast wickets and produced some good cricket both ways, with bat and ball," Saker said.


"The two test wickets have been quite the opposite of that.


"I don't know whether that's something New Zealand Cricket would put out, or just the way the wickets are."

Saker pointed out New Zealand went through a stage of having pitches which did offer help to the seamers, "and New Zealand's bowling attack has got great ability to move the ball in the air and off the wicket".


Saker said it is frustrating for the spectators, as well as the bowlers. "Just for the spectacle of test cricket it's not the greatest way."


Saker said the pitches demanded building pressure and being patient and force a batting error. He is optimistic that if play is possible today, England's bowlers can do that and still win the test.


New Zealand will start at 162 for two, with Kane Williamson on 55, his sixth test 50, and Ross Taylor on 41, their stand worth 81. They still trail England by 49 runs.


Williamson and Taylor had shown a solid duty of care, Williamson completing his sixth half century, Taylor, if unconvincing early on, a strong support hand.


Williamson's career has been one of peaks and troughs.


There have been three centuries, all considerable ones in terms of character and achievement, but there have also been too many misses.


His average is 30, and should be higher. Of his 40 innings, 23 have ended short of 20; 11 are single figures.


At 22, Williamson is shaping as a key figure for the foreseeable future, so yesterday's performance when things could have got sticky, was timely.

 

- Rotorua Daily Post

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