NASSER HUSSAIN: England’s tour of New Zealand is a chance gone begging

England failed to pick mystery bowlers, made a baffling call to select five seamers and saw no improvement in Joe Root’s captaincy… the tour of New Zealand is a chance gone begging

  • I had some sympathy with Joe Root on England’s tour of Australia two years ago
  • But this tour of New Zealand has been a missed opportunity for the skipper
  • He had the option to change his bowling options but failed to do so
  • Root and Chris Silverwood looked at Hamilton pitch and chose short-termism

I had a lot of sympathy for Joe Root as England captain in Australia two winters ago because he was given a pack of cards and no matter how many times he tried to shuffle them they were still the same pack of cards.

In New Zealand, though, his bowling options were not one-dimensional and that is why I view this tour as a missed opportunity.

This time, he had the option to change. He had the option of someone with a slightly different trajectory in Saqib Mahmood. The option of a wrist spinner in Matt Parkinson. The left-arm spin option of Jack Leach.

Joe Root had a number of bowling options in New Zealand but failed to make use of them 

Chris Silverwood and Root looked at the pitch in Hamilton and chose short-termism

Chris Silverwood and Root looked at the pitch in Hamilton and chose short-termism

All options in a bid to unearth a group of bowlers able to take 20 wickets in an overseas Test. Instead, Root and Chris Silverwood looked at the pitch in Hamilton and chose short-termism.

They calculated that if the ball was going to do anything it would do it up front — so they played five seamers. They might argue that this was them thinking outside of the box, and playing to their strengths, but I don’t buy that. 

If they play four in home conditions when the Dukes ball is doing plenty, why play five when there is no movement on offer? I’ve never known a Test match in which you need five seamers.

I understand why Root and Silverwood, in his first series as head coach, chased the win by choosing what they thought was best for the team in the here and now. I have been there. I was a bit like that as England captain too.

I wanted to win the game in front of me but in Duncan Fletcher I had a coach who had a long-term policy about the characteristics of the bowling attack required.

He had the option of someone with a slightly different trajectory in Saqib Mahmood

He had the option of someone with a slightly different trajectory in Saqib Mahmood

Fletcher was adamant we needed pace and his firmness of belief eventually led to the 2005 attack of Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard, backed up by Ashley Giles, coming together.

The modern way is to look at the statistics. What stats tell you is that the Hamilton pitch doesn’t spin, spinners don’t take any wickets there but the problem of going down this route is that those stats become self-fulfilling.

If you don’t play a spinner, a spinner cannot take a wicket. Also, when do these guys progress if they are not learning to bowl in these conditions? If a wrist spinner like Parkinson doesn’t play on a pitch like that, when will he play? What has he learned on this tour? The same for Leach.

Root must have walked off at the SCG in January 2018, determined to do something about England’s lack of potency with the Kookaburra ball yet has reverted to type too easily since.

England’s team management undoubtedly see a formula of how they win games. But I am afraid that formula doesn’t work away from home. A football manager will set up a team to play at home and then when that team goes away it is set up differently and will include different people.

What has young wrist-spinner Matt Parkinson learned from not playing on this tour?

What has young wrist-spinner Matt Parkinson learned from not playing on this tour?

New Zealand reflect their captain Kane Williamson, but question marks remain over Root

New Zealand reflect their captain Kane Williamson, but question marks remain over Root

That’s the opportunity that has gone begging — to set up the XI with one eye on winning in the future. Looking to the upcoming tour of South Africa, Jimmy Anderson is England’s greatest ever fast bowler and, if he is fit, he should come straight back in.

If Mark Wood is also fit, it provides another bowler with the kind of pace to take pitches out of the equation. I feel South Africa are very vulnerable and if England can put together the right attack then they can win out there — definitely. 

But they need more than Jofra Archer’s pace. The wicket-taking load has to be shared like the attacks of Australia and India.

The good thing to come out of this trip was Root’s form in the second Test. No one is doubting that he will be — if he is not already — one of England’s all-time batting greats. 

As of yet, though, I do not see what impact he has made as captain on this England team in two and a half years. Kane Williamson’s New Zealand reflects Williamson. 

Look at Virat Kohli. He is not the greatest tactician but boy does he drive India forward. Andrew Strauss’s England were Strauss-like in their attention to detail.

So although the question marks about his ability to contribute heavily with the bat while leading may have dissipated, he still has to have some kind of imprint on the team he leads.

Question marks about Root's ability to contribute heavily with the bat may have dissipated

Question marks about Root’s ability to contribute heavily with the bat may have dissipated

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