The New Zealand-England two-Test series ended in a 1-1 draw, with both sides sharing the honours. As the result suggests, the contest was tightly fought, and it indeed was. However, it will be New Zealand who will be happier of the two teams. After all, the Kiwis went into the second Test 0-1 down, and were under extreme pressure, as opposed to England, who could have won the series even if they had managed to settle for a tame draw. But, like in the series against West Indies, England again squandered the advantage, and allowed New Zealand to make a comeback.
New Zealand’s positive and aggressive attitude has been the key to the team’s resurgence at the international level in recent times. This was evident in the World Cup, and the qualities again benefited the side in the Test series against England. Brendon McCullum is not one to sit back. He gave his men the freedom to go after the English with both bat and ball, and the results were there for all to see. In spite of the fact that England had a distinct advantage going into the Leeds Test, the Kiwis did not take a backward step, which is what ended up being in their favour.
Being aggressive in Test cricket is like a double edged sword. New Zealand experienced the same at Lord’s where, after being in a dominant position to push for a victory, they ended up on the losing side. Their positive intent was actually overdone, and turned into recklessness as England utilised the opportunity to fight back, and went on to clinch a memorable win. Having said that, New Zealand must be credited for learning their lessons and implementing the same at Leeds. McCullum’s half-century, where he reined in his natural game, was symbolic of the manner in which the Kiwis reassessed themselves.
So many players put their hands up for the visitors at Headingley, just days after the disappointment at Lord’s. BJ Watling was the standout performer with his hundred. He was selected in spite of being injured and though he did not keep wickets made his impact with a wonderful knock. Watling’s injury gave Luke Ronchi an opportunity to make his Test debut at the age of 34. He did not disappoint, playing a knock in the McCullum mode in the first innings, and performing a major role in helping the team build an impressive first innings total.
The aspect of New Zealand’s play that stood out at Leeds was the number of performances that were match-defining. Kane Williamson may be renowned for his batting, but he chipped in with three massive wickets on the last day with his off-spin. Mark Craig also continued to impress as the main slow bowler. And, whenever New Zealand needed wickets, the captain turned to Trent Boult, and their World Cup hero rarely disappointed. The victory meant New Zealand’s unbeaten run in Test series’ got extended. The way they have been playing, Kiwis have thoroughly deserved that the record.
-- By A Cricket Analyst