By Nick Hoult, in Mount Maunganui
This was England’s first win in New Zealand since James Anderson and Stuart Broad were first paired together in Wellington 15 years ago.
You can understand why Ben Stokes did not want to contemplate life post-‘Branderson’ after they shared 12 wickets in the 10th win for the new regime. Broad gave New Zealand nightmares in the dark on Saturday night and Anderson wrapped it all up in 100 minutes of play on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when England supporters spread their blankets on the ground with most still rubbing their eyes in disbelief over what they are seeing.
They witnessed Stokes becoming the quickest England captain to 10 Test wins and the joint fastest of all time from 12 games (including standing in for Root in 2020) with Lindsay Hassett, who inherited the Australia team from Don Bradman at the end of the Forties. Stokes was dealt a less kind hand of one win in 17.
It was also England’s sixth Test win in a row, the first time that has happened for them since 2010, a run back then that included four wins over Bangladesh. His team also broke their hoodoo in overseas day-night Tests, winning their first in five attempts.
Despite England beating New Zealand by 267 runs, their captain Tim Southee declined to describe it as a ‘gulf’ between the sides. Four defeats in a row to England (following the 3-0 series result last summer) suggests otherwise.
Joe Root presented Brendon McCullum with a Bazball badge during this game, poking fun at the coach’s hatred of the term – but it is the talk of cricket and other teams need to quickly work out a way of combatting the approach.
New Zealand are no closer after four attempts and will be forced into changes in Wellington. England are getting into the heads of their opponents. The best teams always do. The nighthawk nonsense is a bit like Shane Warne’s pre-Ashes talk of magical new deliveries that never existed. Like then, the mindgames worked. On Saturday night New Zealand allowed a Broad skier to land between keeper and bowler in a moment of panic that summed up how they had been steamrolled.
England needed only 100 minutes to knock over the last five wickets – Anderson wiping away the tail to finish with better figures, four for 18, than his mate Broad, who took four for 49.
They had the best bowling conditions of the match but they utilised them better than New Zealand, who were 37 for three and 63 for five when they batted under the lights.
Anderson’s bowling average after seven wickets in this game is now lower than at any stage in his career for 20 years. Broad bowled his best new-ball spell since the 2015 Ashes. At times both chased lost causes to the boundary, giving everything.
Stokes described them as an inspiration but it is a two way street. Both played in pink-ball defeats in Adelaide on the last two Ashes tours where they were conservative with their lengths and infuriated Joe Root. Now they buy in because Stokes brooks no argument, but in a clever way by knowing how his players tick. His weapon is the carrot, not the stick (so far).
The performance vindicated McCullum’s preparations for the series that concentrated on galvanising the players and cementing the culture and mentality of the squad. The week of golf in Queenstown, the half-hearted warm-up game and then cancelling the last practice match so the players could go and watch his horse could have backfired, but instead it was New Zealand that looked short of a gallop.
The relaxed environment is deeper than having a laugh. Practice may be optional but all turn up, even the quick bowlers who may graze around for an hour but want to be seen joining in.
The one player struggling is Zak Crawley but whereas on the last Ashes tour the other players would have been talking about him, now they are backing him with an arm around the shoulder, telling him he is doing a job for the team by setting the tone with an aggressive approach. Stokes made a point of it too, mentioning in his press conference England were 79 for two when they batted under the lights, Crawley with 28 and six fours.
McCullum does not take failures in isolation either as long as a player is playing for the team. He patted Root on the back when he was caught at slip in the first innings playing a reverse scoop and told him to do it again. Root went out and scored 57, only his second fifty in 11 innings.
Harry Brook was man of the match for twice dominating the bowling with 89 in the first innings that enabled Stokes to declare and stick New Zealand in to bat in the twilight. His second half-century did a similar job but the batting was a team performance. In the past England have leant on the runs of one man, Root or Stokes. Now they get by when those two do not perform.
Stokes gave Jack Leach a boost bowling him from the start and he took the first wicket, Michael Bracewell chipping to short midwicket. Broad was a bit stiff legged after his 10 over spell on Saturday night but Anderson was fresher, and nine balls later he removed Scott Kuggeleijn bowled and Southee caught at slip. Daryl Mitchell’s fifty was a crumb of pride for New Zealand but Anderson came back to finish it off bowling last man Blair Tickner after a stand of almost an hour.
The series moves to the Basin Reserve and with an extra day off Broad and Anderson have increased the chances of making a return to where it all started which would be a fitting way to end what is surely their last winter together.
New Zealand vs England, first Test day four: as it happened
Ben Stokes on England’s first win in NZ since 2008
“Another great performance. Very clinical with the bat and very clinical with the ball. You look at the bowling attack that we’ve got… I think we executed everything we wanted to. I think one of the most pleasing things was whatever New Zealand threw at us with the ball… we managed to react to that and come out on the positive side.
“I think again, it’s going with what you feel is going to work [on targeting Wagner’s short balls]. There’s always the opportunity for a wicket to be taken with short bowling, but there’s [the chance] for runs. Some days it’s not going to work but this week everything we tried to do paid off.
“I think that’s a tactical thing around these day/night games is taking advantage around bowling under lights. We were able to inflict some hard damage with the new ball on day one and the same again last night. It’s tough for anyone when Jimmy and Broady get that ball talking.”
Tim Southee reacts to a thumping loss
“Disappointing but I think credit to England they played it pretty well. We made the decision thinking it was the right one. The rate they batted put them in the position to declare [when they did]. The style they play is going to present opportunities and we saw that. It’s about trying to stem the bleeding in between those wickets. Strategically they played it pretty nicely.”
Harry Brook gets player of the match for his two 50s
“There was probably no standout performer in the game. We all contributed well. We stuck at it and we were outstanding. I think it helped that they went for bumpers earlier, I felt I could get in earlier. It was a good pitch.
“I kept on trying to whack it [in the second inns]. Just trying to put as much pressure on the bowler as we can. I struck it well yesterday but another day it might not have come off. It’s the most fun I’ve had. Every time I go out to bat I’m excited to go out and do whatever I want.”
Stokes’s fine record as captain continues
11 Test and 11 times England have taken 20 wickets.
This little nugget from Nick Hoult is interesting too: “Stokes now sits alongside Australia captain Lindsay Hassett as the quickest captain to 10 wins (12 games), which includes the one-off as a stand-in for Joe Root in 2020.”
England bowling figures for this innings
Anderson 10.3 – 3 – 18 – 4 (1.71)
Broad 15 – 5 – 49 – 4 (3.26)
Robinson 8 – 0 – 34 – 1 (4.25)
Leach 11 – 4 – 25 – 1 (2.27)
Root 1 – 1 – 0 – 0 (0.0)
RESULT: ENG (325/9dec and 274) beat NZ (306 and 126) by 267 runs
A thoroughly deserved win for England. Fairly even after the first innings scores and similar after two days but it was yesterday where England went for the jugular and put the result almost out of the reach of the hosts. Broad was excellent and Anderson finished off the job today. A pretty meek surrender bar the final wicket partnership which showed a bit of fight.