What the papers say: New Zealand deadlock


Cricket writers in the UK may have been impressed with Matt Prior's efforts in the third Test, his century ensuring a match and series draw, but overall they were unimpressed with England's performances.

Cricket writers in the UK may have been impressed with Matt Prior's efforts in the third Test, his century ensuring a match and series draw, but overall they were unimpressed with England's performances in the Land of the Long White Cloud, all agreeing the Kiwis had been underestimated.

<b>Jonathan Agnew</b> at the <i>BBC</i> opined: "Questions will be asked of England after this tour. They were focused on beating India before Christmas and are looking ahead to back-to-back Ashes series against Australia; they probably took their eye off New Zealand in between.

"New Zealand almost made them pay but England saved face by the narrowest of margins. Good teams do not lose many matches and they have not lost any matches."

Aggers added of the scheduling of the series: "There are also lessons to be learned by the England management. Team director Andy Flower must admit the preparation was not good enough; England cannot afford to have the situation where they have a solitary first-class game before a Test series.

"The itinerary – three back-to-back Tests – was also unacceptable because people cannot perform at their best on tired legs. That has to be put right."

<b>Stephen Brenkley</b> in the <i>Independent</i> also thought England should have done much better, though he thought the Black Caps did much for the maintenance of Test cricket in their country, writing: "Nothing in this valiant rearguard action could disguise the deficiencies in approach that took England to the brink. When the series began three weeks ago, they were overwhelming favourites, the number two ranked side in the world expected to do much as they liked against the number eight.

"It never looked like there was such a gap. New Zealand had much the better of the opening Test and if England replied accordingly in the second which was also curtailed by rain, the Kiwis dominated the deciding match.

"The fifth day was spine-tingling in a way that only Test cricket can be. The whole of New Zealand appeared to be on tenterhooks, waiting for wickets to fall. If it was not quite like the tension that coursed through the nation on the occasion of the Rugby World Cup Final, it was perhaps the day which signalled the renaissance of the long form of the game in the country."

The <i>Guardian</i>'s <b>Mike Selvey</b> was of similar mind, writing: "Although the result means that they just retain their position as the number two ranked side, and the extra cash that goes with it, the England euphoria that accompanied the result cannot camouflage the fact that in the course of the three matches they have been outplayed overall by a good New Zealand side that Graham Gooch, the batting coach, has confessed they underestimated.

"In Dunedin, where a day was lost to the weather, it is likely New Zealand would have won, while in Wellington, the dreadful weather probably prevented England from doing likewise. Here it has been New Zealand who have bossed the game."

He did give praise to Prior, Broad and Bell though, adding: "It was a day for heroes, players who reined in their natural instincts to carve out one of the great rearguards for only three teams previously had entered the final day of a Test with four wickets down and survived to the end of the day."

Taking another tack, <b>Ed Smith</b> in the <i>Times</i> felt English fans, players and media were too focused on the Ashes, and forgot about the games they had to play before meeting the Aussies mid-year.

He wrote: "English cricket's obsession with the Ashes is degenerating into a fetish. We are transfixed by the Ashes, our vision is blinded by it, our priorities skewed by it. We lose to South Africa, we talk about the Ashes. We visit New Zealand, anticipating an easy victory, looking forward to the Ashes. We barely survive, but expect to do better in the Ashes."

He continued:"English cricket has a shot at greatness. But that will not be achieved if every half step, every achievement, is measured against the old enemy. South Africa, after all, are comfortably the best team in the world.

"Meanwhile, we have just battled to avoid a wildly unexpected defeat in New Zealand. Why? It's hard to avoid the feeling that England took the Kiwis too lightly, and I mean English cricket as a whole, not just the England touring party."

<b>Paul Newman</b> in the <i>Daily Mail</i> paid tribute to the Black Caps, especially skipper Brendon McCullum, who came into the series an unpopular figure, and the Kiwis on the back end of a whitewash by South Africa.

Newman wrote: "Central to that (low spirit at the start of the series) was the crisis over the captaincy which saw the majority of New Zealand's cricket lovers angry that Ross Taylor had been replaced in controversial circumstances by Brendon McCullum.

"Yet there will surely not be a single fan here – and it was a great shame that more of them were not in Eden Park today to see it – who will not laud McCullum as a modern New Zealand sporting hero after this. Even though England held out this 0-0 series draw this was absolutely New Zealand's series."

<b>Derek Pringle</b> wrote in the <i>Telegraph</i> of England's 'disrespect' towards the Kiwis, saying they were looking too far ahead to play attention to this series: "Cook's side came here with one team on their minds and it was not New Zealand, which is disrespectful.

"They sent Graeme Swann home at the first sign of trouble and Kevin Pietersen just before a final Test that cried out for one of his blitzkrieg innings. You might argue those decisions was good management of resources or you could look at it another way entirely.

"Would those players have been sent home if this was an Ashes series with New Zealand up in three months' time? Probably not, despite what Cook said to the contrary about Pietersen missing the Test here even it was against Australia.

"A drawn series was certainly was not what New Zealand deserved after making the running all match. Peter Fulton's feat of a hundred in each innings and the swing bowling of Boult and Tim Southee would have been match-winning efforts against teams without someone as good and determined as Prior."