Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

England Cricket: Start of a new era?

Posted on 6 June 2022 by Piers Dunham

Yesterday, England beat current World Test Champions New Zealand by five wickets. Yes, you did read that right. It is just their second win in their last 18 tests. It was by no means comfortable, there was the inevitable batting collapse in the first innings and even the second innings was streaky, but the win feels significant.

Root magic

Joe Root’s match winning unbeaten innings of 115 will of course grab all the headlines and rightfully so. Not many English sports stars have had it as rough as the Yorkshireman in recent months. When he came out to bat in England’s second innings he looked as calm as ever and determined to carry his team through.

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Without the weight of the captaincy bearing down on his shoulders Root looked as majestic. Notably he passed 10,000 test runs, becoming the joint-youngest person to reach the milestone with Alistair Cook.

Root will be hoping that he can emulate what Cook did after he himself let go of the captaincy role to focus on scoring runs more regularly. Not that Root has not been scoring runs, but not at the consistent level that a man of Root’s immense talent should be. For Root to have an average of less than 50 is a travesty, but I am sure in the next few years that average will only increase.

It feels significant that the two batsmen to carry England through were Root and Stokes. Past and present Test captains leading their team to victory. The images of the two embracing as Root came into the famous Long Room at Lords after hitting the winning runs were wholesome but also important. It feels as though, if England are going to improve and succeed with Stokes as captain, Root will still have a big role to play, either through the runs he scores, or his presence in the field. He did that on this occasion, but this is only the first test of the new era.

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England debut to remember

Another success story of the Test is of course Matthew Potts. The Durham fast bowler took 7 wickets in the match, taking the scalp of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in both innings. I don’t think Potts could have dreamed for a better England debut, but now his task is to keep that level of performance into the next test.

It was very refreshing to see a young fast bowler, who plays in the second tier of the English county game come into the test arena and perform so well. Perhaps showing that the current format of the domestic red ball game in this country does not need to be ‘franchised’ as ex-player Kevin Pietersen states so regularly.

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However, it is important to come back to that fact that it is not enough to just have a great debut. The need for Potts to push on and cement his place in this England team is vital. With Jofra Archer out for the foreseeable, Chris Woakes in poor form and obviously with Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson not getting any younger, now is the perfect time for the 23-year-old to force his way into being a regular in this team.

Old guard still performing

Although it is true Broad and Anderson are not getting any younger, it does not appear that they are getting any worse. Anderson started off the match as he always does, dismissing both openers and ending the match with six wickets.

And then Broad, who clawed his side back into the ascendancy when dismissing Mitchel on 108, starting the Kiwi 4th innings collapse that put England in charge. The performance of the two makes the decision to leave them out of the recent tour to the West Indies look even stupider.

However, that is in the past, crucially for England they are there now and will look to do even more damage to New Zealand as the series continues.

Problems still there

But is all this praise and careful optimism warranted?

The simple answer is probably not. All though there were signs of improvement there were also those familiar signs of weakness, such as losing eight wickets for 90 runs in the first innings.

As much as we England fans would love McCullum’s influence over the top order to be instant it will clearly take time.

Crawley is still an extremely frustrating player to watch as it is evident, he has all the talent in the world but continues to struggle to keep his discipline outside of the off stump.

You could even say that despite winning the game by five wickets England were lucky to win the game. Had Colin de Grandhomme’s foot been half a foot further back when he bowled Stokes for just one run the story would have been very different. England would have been 76-5 and 200 runs away from victory.

Alas his foot was over the line. A no ball was called, and Stokes walked back to the crease. These are the fine margins that exist in elite sport and England, this time got one to go their way.

The first test of the Brendan McCullum and Ben Stokes era was a win. That is now a fact and even if it is all down hill from here, England will always have this moment.

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