That was not a particularly good series for England, then. Generally inconsistent and uncertain with the bat, often alarmingly toothless and at times clueless with the ball.
But one does not need to swallow the Kool-Aid to see there were positives along the way. Let’s have a look at how each player fared and then distil the ups and downs of tough, international sport to a number between one and 10 because that’s how this shit works.
Rory Burns: Continued on an upward curve after the Ashes with a streaky half-century at Mount Maunganui before a determined hundred at Hamilton – after being dropped twice. Loses a mark because of his unnecessary second-innings dismissal at the Bay Oval as England attempted to save the game. Has now fared admirably well against two of the best new-ball attacks in world cricket and, while still with a long way to go, is now far closer to Your Andrew Strausses and the Alastair Cooks of This World than all the great many other Test openers England have tried over the last seven years. Which sounds like damning with faint praise, and that’s because it is a little bit. Also, for what it’s worth, the current official C365 endorsed captaincy candidate should Root ever realise it’s not really for him. 7/10
Dom Sibley: The Test debutant endured something of a baptism of fire. While he saw off the new ball on his maiden outing for England, he looked uncomfortable under the short ball and his tendency to favour the leg side twice led to his downfall. Needs to find a release shot – preferably on the offside – as a way to at least rotate the strike if he is to survive at the top level. Took a stellar catch at gully in the opener to see off Colin De Grandhomme. 5/10
Joe Denly: Battled stoutly and with no lack of patience in both innings at Mount Maunganui but yet to record a hundred to really cement his spot. But let’s be honest, Denly’s series – perhaps Denly’s Test career – is only ever going to be remembered for one thing. Poor bastard. 6/10
Joe Root: The wagons were circling as the Yorkshireman recorded just 13 runs in the series opener which dumped him out of the ICC’s top 10 Test batsmen. His class on an unresponsive surface told with a magnificent 226 that should quieten his critics for at least one whole Test match. Moved into England’s all-time top 10 Test runscorers with that Hamilton – certain to climb to at least second place but even now quite literally nobody has ever scored more Test runs for England at a better average than Root. 8/10
Ben Stokes: Will rue his unnecessary downfall for 91 in the first Test which precipitated a batting collapse and swung momentum in New Zealand’s favour. Willing as ever but the sight of him struggling with his left knee at Seddon Park was a concern, even if it was only a fleeting issue. Harsh but undeniable truth remains that for all his brilliance and endeavour and commitment, his two decisive contributions to this series were his unforgivable dismissal and regulation drop of double-centurion BJ Watling in the first Test. He will know that, and it will piss him right off. Watch out, South Africa. 6/10
Ollie Pope: Dismissed in bizarre and frustrating fashion as England battled to save the Test last week but took on wicketkeeping duties at short notice at Hamilton and fared well, despite also dropping Williamson on the last day. Also batted within himself in a Test-best 75 during a crucial stand with Root. England will be relieved that recklessly handing the gloves to their most promising young batsman since Root himself appears not to have fazed Pope nor undermined his batting development. But England, seriously, two wicketkeepers in every Test squad from now on please, no matter how much you want to teach Jonny Bairstow a lesson. 6/10
Zak Crawley: Was handed an unexpected Test debut at Hamilton because of Jos Buttler’s back spasm but contributed just one run – a hurried single, where he nearly ran himself out – and was a liability in the field on a couple of occasions. Seemed to enjoy himself, though. And why not? Still young enough that he need not yet be permanently doomed to exist solely as a missed answer in Sporcle quizzes. 2/10
Jos Buttler: Put England back into contention for 400 in the first innings at Mount Maunganui only to hole out, perhaps needlessly when Jack Leach was comfortable at the other end. Not entirely tidy on his return behind the stumps and ruled out of the second Test because of a back injury while training at the gym. Still not quite a fixture in this middling side despite his immense and obvious talents. 5/10
Sam Curran: Was his usual bustling self and, surprisingly, England’s leading wicket-taker with six scalps, albeit at 39.66. It’s still a very reasonable return given the struggles of others and Curran’s supposed near total reliance on swing in a series where there was none. 6/10
Chris Woakes: Initially overlooked in favour of the left-arm angle of Curran, the Warwickshire bowling all-rounder responded with four wickets at 23.75 at Hamilton, including key men Williamson and Ross Taylor in the first innings. Was up on pace and should have done enough to earn a squad place for South Africa with one of his better performances away from home. 6/10
Jofra Archer: After his stratospheric rise in the World Cup and Ashes, the fast bowler was brought back down to earth on a challenging first overseas trip. Tried his hardest but could not replicate the rapid pace he showed over the summer and a combined two for 209 showed how much he struggled with the flat surfaces and the Kookaburra ball. However, his economy rate was admirable – a reflection on his professionalism despite some people having a fit of the vapours when he got on that segway – and he took Denly’s nonsense drop at Hamilton in tremendous spirit. 5/10
Jack Leach: Out-bowled by fellow left-arm spinner Mitch Santner at Mount Maunganui, Leach was perhaps unfairly dropped as England went with an all-seam frontline attack at Hamilton. Ended the tour with a bout of gastroenteritis. 5/10
Stuart Broad: Wicketless but economical in the opener, Broad proved he can still thrive on the most docile of surfaces with a haul of four for 73 in the second Test that helped England’s push for a series-levelling victory. With one run from three innings and the total absence of any clue how to deal with Neil Wagner, has also now fully completed the extraordinary journey from a Test century and a batting average in the 30s to a true and total number 11 in an age where such batsmen are all but extinct. 6/10
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