After a remarkable day of test cricket it seems like a good idea to write a reality based blog post. Yes, New Zealand did roll Captain Cook and the mighty English batting lineup for less than 200, and yes, the openers put on an unbroken century partnership. The performance was close to perfect, and it is tempting to sit back and declare that New Zealand is now officially ‘Back’, with England correspondingly being ‘Gone’.
That would be extremely foolish. There have been many false dawns for New Zealand in test cricket. There was the win in Hobart, the win in Sri Lanka, and in the middle a series of abysmal, abject performances. There are still 13 days of test cricket to go in the series, and my expectation is that New Zealand will still find a way to lose at least ten of them. The batting is one collapse away from being back to square one, and the quick bowlers, while promising, are not yet world beaters.
There is some cause for hope from this glorious day though. It is very rare for New Zealand to start a test series this well. Normally the entire first test passes is a dismal blur of failure before the players pull themselves together. This was the case in the Australia series, the India series, the Sri Lanka series, and lets just forget the first day of the South Africa series. It is great to see players come into the setup, some returning after breaks like Wagner and Fulton, others debutants like Rutherford and Martin, produce results. Between those four relatively inexperienced players at this level, New Zealand have given themselves a chance to do something very rare, go one up in a test series.
England will come back hard. Only Trott has so far played to expectations, but that will likely change in the second innings. England are masters of playing for the draw, and there is no reason why they can’t score 500 next time around. All it will take is a furious, back to the wall masterclass from KP, a measured, steady century from Cook or a blistering counter attack from Prior and they will be back in the match. Panesar will become more of a threat as the game wears on too.
Lastly, England may be saved by the rain, already two days of the match are gone and Dunedin isn’t exactly renowned for sunshine. After all, when the city was first settled, it was named as such because it reminded the Scottish settlers of home. There is no reason to be too optimistic for Black Caps fans, this game is far from over. They would do well to remember that when Rutherford and Fulton step back out tomorrow morning.