New Zealand v England: Three lessons as tourists finally fight back
New Zealand v England: What lessons did we learn as Alastair Cook and Nick Compton both hit centuries to slash the hosts' lead?
England step up to the plate
Openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton all but eradicated the lead built by New Zealand, as they guided England to 234-1 at the end of day four in Dunedin. Having watched Brendon McCullum smack the England bowlers all over the park in the morning session, Cook set about repairing the damage that had been done with one of his trademark innings, mirrored by his batting partner Compton. Their stand for the first wicket – an England record against New Zealand – took them to within three overs of the close, and by that point the England captain had registered his 24th Test hundred. Having been on 99* when Cook fell, Compton successfully completed his first ton to finish on 102 not out. It was always going to be much harder for the Kiwi bowlers second time around, as so many of the wickets taken in the first innings were gifted to them by the England batsmen. More than anything, this display has emphasised just how bad England’s day two performance was, and demonstrates the unspectacular bowling attack New Zealand have at their disposal. Assuming they manage to complete a draw, England will now feel very confident of showing what they can do in the second Test in Wellington.
Compton silences doubters
Following his failures in both the warm up game against a New Zealand XI and in the first innings at the University Oval, there was much discussion about the importance of this knock for Compton before he’d even reached the crease. Joe Root’s superb start to his international career had left many calling for him to be promoted up the order to open the batting with Cook, with Compton having just one fifty to his name from the four Test tour of India this winter. He must have been aware that a good series would see his position secured for both the return matches in England and then at very least the first of the back to back Ashes series, so a failure would have left him approaching the last chance saloon. He has responded in the best way possible, and if his county form from the last twelve months is anything to go by, he will be looking to make this into a big hundred and ensure the game is completely safe. If he manages to back this innings up with at least one other score of fifty plus in the remaining two Tests, he can be fairly sure of retaining the selectors’ confidence through to the start of the first Test against Australia this summer.
Intriguing final day in prospect
Night watchman Steven Finn will be happy to let Compton take as much of the strike as possible in the morning, but with Jonathan Trott the next man in England’s approach will not change. They will be well aware of the destructive batting contained within the New Zealand line up, and will not want to leave any kind of target for a Twenty20 style run chase. This plays perfectly into the hands of Compton and Trott, who can play their natural game by leaving anything wide of the stumps and remaining unperterbed by a low run rate. England are still 59 runs behind, so the first target will be to reach parity. Once that has been achieved, if they are able to bat until tea the game will be safe and a decision can be made over whether Cook wants to rub salt in the wound by asking New Zealand to bat again. The morning session in particular still represents a dangerous period, as two quick wickets could cast enough doubt in the minds of the England batsmen to set nerves jangling, but on a pitch that is offering little, the tourists should be able to see out the Test and deal a psychological blow to the Black Caps.