By Niall Anderson at Chester-le-Street

Eoin Morgan had never seen anything like it. Kane Williamson thought it was a situation which required a smarter approach. Gary Stead was left shaking his head.

No, they weren't reacting to the streaker who spent an eternity on the field and then broke free of seven security guards to do another lap – absurd in its own right - but instead the pitch at Chester-le-Street, which turned from a batting paradise into bowling bliss in rapid time during England's 119-run win over the Black Caps.

When Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow were unleashing a 123-run opening stand in the first 18 overs, a massive total looked on the cards, but as it turned out, they were just about the only overs in which such scintillating scoring was on offer.


From 194-1 after 30 overs, England eventually needed some late bluster to get to 305-8 – a sudden change that wasn't solely about New Zealand bowling well (though they did) or England's opening pair batting superbly (though they also did).

No, the pitch played a significant role in both. Were it the same conditions throughout England's innings, then similarly brutal batsmen like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan would have come in and plundered as effectively as the English openers. Instead, Stokes mustered just 11 off 27 balls, while Buttler and Morgan looked scratchy before mis-timing shots – almost chipping them - straight to awaiting fielders.

New Zealand adjusted well to the sudden change, bowling cutters – "which were much less responsive earlier," Williamson noted - and taking the pace off the ball, but the damage had been done.

England had made the most of the brief batting utopia to build a total which looked better as the wicket got progressively worse - proving again be a wicket that was difficult for the Black Caps batsmen to bat on, and leaving Stead wondering what could have been had Williamson won the toss.

"We've been on the bad end of a couple of tosses the last two games – winning the toss seemed to have a reasonably influential bearing on the outcome, and even speaking with someone like Jonny Bairstow after the game, he said after 20 overs the pitch changed considerably as well. If you get on the right side of the tosses, then I think that might have a big bearing.

"When the pitch is slow, it just takes a little bit more time. The hard thing for us is we've been chasing targets of 250 or 300 on wearing wickets, which is really tough."

Colin de Grandhomme was one of the Black Caps who couldn't master the Chester-le-Street pitch. Photo / Photosport
Colin de Grandhomme was one of the Black Caps who couldn't master the Chester-le-Street pitch. Photo / Photosport

It wasn't just the Black Caps baffled by the change, as Morgan had no explanation either, saying he was extremely surprised by the sudden swing in conditions.

"I don't think I have played on a wicket that has changed as dramatically as that. When I was in, I hit two cover drives in the air. I didn't mean to hit them in the air. I tried to keep them along the ground. One went for four and the other I got out."


Morgan still managed to produce 42 from 40 balls despite not looking at his best in what was theoretically a period to hit out, and his contribution was enough to get England to a score that Williamson knew would be above-par on the deteriorating wicket.

"We have seen wickets throughout the tournament change, be very variable in terms of their characteristics, and even change within a game.

"It probably changed about the halfway stage of the England innings, but it's also one of those things, they played extremely well and when they do have momentum, often it can be a big challenge, regardless of the surface, to stop.

"They obviously still had a very strong total on the board knowing the way that the wicket changed."

Williamson also acknowledged the need for his side to take smarter options when batting on tougher surfaces, but for Stead, it's time to put those efforts in the rearview mirror and focus on producing a winning performance in whatever conditions are provided in their semifinal at Old Trafford.

"They've been tough conditions – it doesn't matter now, we're going to face Australia or India, we're going to face them in Manchester, and we're going to put a hell of a performance out there that hopefully can win a game of cricket."

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':