A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Tour of New Zealand 2013 - part 5 - the 3rd and final Test

3rd Test - Auckland.

I sit here in front of the empty screen on my iMac, a freshly brewed cup of Coffee by my side ( some good cafetiere stuff, not instant rubbish) and a rather fine Radiohead album gently playing in the background. It's a few days after the final day of the Test match, a game that once again had everything good (and some bad) to show that Test cricket has still so much to offer and yet I have been struggling as to how I should personally view the result. Yes, once again this band of brothers showed that none of them have the faintest clue when they are beaten, as they defied the odds to deny the Kiwi's a somewhat deserved victory. However, on the other hand part of me is wondering whether we as ranked second in the world should be celebrating a draw against the eighth-ranked team. It's conundrum that I hope to solve by the end of this blog entry……. yes, besides a forum for other people to read my musings, this blog also serves as a medium for my own self-analysis.

DAYS 1 to 4 had witnessed a strange state 
Captain Cook about to do a 'Nasser Hussein'
 o f affairs with Alistair Cook stunning the 
cricketing world by winning the toss. The fact that he then decided not to bat and instead decided that the drop-in pitch had enough green tinges to interest the bowlers, so put in a clearly flummoxed Brendan McCullum into bat. McCullum, bless him, decided not to embarrass his cricketing role model and muttered that he would have done the same if he had won the toss - he even kept a straight face when he said it, so it must be true……. Our own Geoffrey Boycott on TMS was his usual reserved self about the choice of bowling first saying

 "I don't know why you would want to field first, possibly for two days, before you have a bat. There was nothing in the pitch, there has been no reverse swing and no spin for Monty."

So, the standard assumption is, you put in the opposition, bowl well on a helpful pitch and anticipate getting them out for a decent figure somewhere well-under 300. Well, erm,  it didn't quite work out that way as our boys were thoroughly outplayed over the first four days in practically every department. For a start, NZ ended their first innings on a 'paltry' 443 all out after 152.3 overs  - the first day alone saw them close on 250 for the loss of one bloody wicket. Yep, that pitch was a real demon….. 

England's first innings reply quite obviously was the result of some crafty replacement of the drop-in pitch for one that made it nay-on unplayable by the time they came into bat - either that or there is the other possibility that NZ bowled much better than our boys did. Perish the thought. The score of 204 all out after just 89.2 overs was pretty dire….things were looking bad overall for the whole series and indeed our continuing status as the number 2 Test nation in the world….. the 8th ranked team were making us look like chumps. Indeed, not only were they outplaying us at this point, they took the mickey in refusing to enforce the follow-on and despite one or two scares, continued to pile on the runs. 

The Kiwis have a good laugh at our expense - again…..

As it turned out, we made it quite clear to the Kiwis that we didn't actually need their help to make us look like chumps, no, we were perfectly adept at doing that ourselves. The 4th day witnessed some truly bizarre fielding decisions as it became abundantly clear that a mammoth deficit for our final innings was on the cards as the Kiwis annoyingly decided not to collapse. For possibly the first time I can remember, the captain and his bowlers seemed completely devoid of ideas, to the point that the only strategy now was one of containment and hoping for a miracle. At one point, all the outfield players were placed on the boundary - meaning that the Kiwis could take ones and twos as they pleased….I never seen the like. As neither had Aggers...

"It was one of England's poorest days in the past 20 years. I have never seen an England Test team with all nine fielders on the boundary as they had during the morning session. I never want to see it again; it was the equivalent of throwing in the towel."

By the end of the 4th day, prospects of losing the Test match and with it the series and our status were staring at us in the face. The day ended with our brave boys on 90 for 4, a whopping 390 runs needed to win, or more likely, a whole blooming day to bat with just 6 wickets left……So far we had been out captained, out thought and out played - we needed a miracle.

Day 5 was going to need a rear guard performance of gargantuan proportions - only twice before had a team successfully batted out the final day to save a match. Whispers of a rear guard action were being muted, so much so that Matt Prior admitted in an end of day interview that a certain Michael Atherton's name had been mentioned that morning in saying what needed to be done. So, to help my potential solving of my conundrum of whether to get carried away with the final result, I began to ponder on some classic examples of drying the cricketing odds….

Three classic rear guard actions……...

Classic rear guard No1 - Atherton's masterful 185

Faced with a seemingly impossible task in the final Test against South Africa in 1995, England were a precarious 167 for four and having to bat out the final day.

Michael Atherton's  innings lasted 643 minutes; he faced 492 balls for his 185 and with the able assistance of wicket-keeper Jack Russell, the Test Match was saved.  Michael Atherton would also be pleased to know that he instantly became one of my cricketing heroes - his confrontation in this match, and repeated at home the next year with Allan Donald, has gone down as one of the classic cricketing confrontations.

Classic rear guard No2 - "arm guard's are for wimps"

The 1963 Lord's Test against the West Indies. After having had his arm broken by Wes Hall the day before, Colin Cowdrey came in, arm in plaster, to play out the final moments of the match. 

Not only did this confuse the West Indians, the fact that he walked to the crease with a beaming smile on his face made them realise that this particular Englishman was also a bit mad. 
Indeed, some 9 years later when he was flown out to Australia at the age of 42 to face Lillee and Thompson at their frighteningly fastest it showed that he was a gentleman, a fine player, and clinically insane….

Classic rear guard No3 -  Ney with the French in1812

During Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, the three-day Battle of Krasny concludes. In reality it was a series of skirmishes fought in the final stage of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Total French losses in the Krasny skirmishes are estimated between 6,000 and 13,000 killed and wounded, with another 20,000 to 26,000 lost as prisoners to the Russians. The French also lost close to 130 cannon and a huge portion of their supply train. Russian losses are estimated to have been no more than 5,000 killed and wounded. At Krasny, Marshal Ney's steely courage in defeat immortalised him in the annals of military history. Thanks to for this piece of information.

I know, it's not exactly cricket - but it's almost as important……….

DAY 5 - and boy what a day, I think the term 'roller coaster' would be rather apt for what was about to take place - and for much of it I was actually awake, which makes a nice change. The morning session wasn't too bad from an England perspective as the proverbial anchor was dropped as Bell and Root did their best impression of digging in - only for Root to get out before lunch. 

In fact, for a large part of the afternoon things still seemed comfortable as the impossible now seemed as it may happen. 

Matt quickly hides the glue he used for the bails

Well that was apart from Matt Prior deciding to give the odd bit of catching practise to the Kiwi slips ( they failed the assessment) and then letting a ball hit his stumps but the bails refusing to fall….it was all good. 

However, the cricketing gods (Yes W.G. I'm talking about you!) decided it was time for my stress levels ( yes, its all about me) to increase as Ian Bell was dismissed in the last over before tea for what had been a disciplined 75. Matt Prior was now the only recognised batsman left….. and with three tail-enders going into the final session.

Matt badly needed someone to shore up the other end while he still played his shots. Stuart Broad kindly stepped up and took to heart this advice as he decided scoring runs was for Cissy's and instead brought a whole new level of definition to the term 'digging in'. His decision to only weaken and eventually get off the mark to the 62nd ball he faced was admirable. As was hisTest record of 103 minutes in the middle. Geoffrey would be proud.

 It was all going swimmingly with only a handful of overs to go as the Kiwis, who looked increasingly disheartened as they through everything at the batsmen when suddenly Kane Williamson had Broad and Anderson caught at slip in the space of three balls. That brought in the last 'batsman' Monty in for three overs - it was about 3.30 in the morning and I was about to have a heart attack. Monty, bless him, did his best to put us all at ease by almost getting involved in a comedy run-out when he dived for the crease half a mile too soon…….. 

Monty dives……then dives again….and again.

Those last 18 balls were something I could barely watch - in fact Captain Cook admitted later to not bang able to look at all as Monty fended ball after ball away. The crowd were baying, the fielders were camped en mass around the bat whispering words of encouragement to Monty and Matt……but our boys were up for it at last as Monty decided to let Matt have the final glory for the last couple of balls for yet another famous rearguard to add to the annals of cricket history.

So this brings me back to my initial conundrum. Is snatching a draw from the 8th placed test team in the world worthy of the celebration and jubilation displayed in some quarters? Well I think it's certainly fitting celebrating the character and dedication shown on that final day. For a start, the performance of Matt Prior is one that certainly should be celebrated. His display in this match confirmed his ever growing reputation as the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world. He scored a century and a fifty and took five catches, which is an unusual accomplishment in Test cricket. We should be thankful to have him in our ranks.

Moreover, I think its safe to say that we didn't play well throughout the whole of series, New Zealand were better at times than us and far more aggressive. They have an excellent proactive captain and a young hungry talented side that if properly managed, could attain good things in the future. We did play well at times, but maybe we underestimated the Kiwis while having one eye on a certain Ashes series in the summer. One thing is for certain though, that when the chips are down and some character has to be shown, our boys never know when they are beaten. 

Monty thanks Matt Prior for supporting him in their partnership….
There are times as an England cricket supporter that could certainly never be said - so we should give the players every plaudit for saving this match….. they were magnificent.  

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Tour of New Zealand 2013 - part 5 - the 2nd Test

2nd Test, Wellington (Basin Reserve)

Drought, what bloody drought?
Due to the impact of work, family and sanity commitments, this blog entry for the 2nd Test match may be slightly shorter than usual. This may be a good thing, because at the moment I seem to be looking at this on my TV……………………………

It had to happen again didn't it? An area of New Zealand that has seen a major lack of rainfall over the last few months hosts a major international Test match and of course, the heavens duly open with a deluge as the game is very nicely poised thank you. Now before some do-gooding people start saying that a drought ridden area finally getting some rain is rather more important than a cricket match being completed. I'm not actually (quite) arguing that another Test series win and consolidation of our 2nd place in the world rankings should take place at the expense of an environmental disaster…….honest. All I'm saying is that maybe the rain and cyclone thingy arriving just a few days later would have satisfied the environmentalists…. and the English cricket fans…, who were hoping for another Test series win and consolidation of our 2nd place in the world rankings. The 5th day weather forecast isn't too good either from a cricketing completion point of view, so barring a monumental bowling effort in the two or three overs that may be available we seem to be heading for another draw. My 3-0 series win for England is now looking seriously pants - its a good job that gambling is not one of my many vices…..

The short period of time between the first and second Test meant that little of note took place, no homework-gate for our hard working conscientious chaps, no perennial under achieving batsmen going back home to Oz in a huff. The only slight controversy were the comments made by the Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum who referred to Alistair Cook as being something of a genius (well we knew that) and on a par with Don Bradman. 

Don Bradman, being a bit good.

"Where he is at in his career at the moment, he is as good as anyone who has ever played the game, barring Bradman," He's obviously a genius batsman, his record is testament to that." said McCullum. 

Of course he is pretty close to the mark, but for some reason this remark created a reaction of quite vitriolic reaction on the Twitterverse with remarks ranging from;

1) "I know that Cook has 24 Test centuries and that he became England's all-time record century-maker and the youngest batsman of any nationality to pass 7,000 runs  - but is he actually that good?"

2) "How dare he be compared to 'The Don' ?…different era, bowlers, blah blah blah."

3)  "Why didn't he compare him to Tendulkar??!!!!!!!!!……so lets give  McCullum a damn good thrashing…..blah blah blah."

Cooke, being better than Bradman….
McCullum seeing that his remark was 'obviously' one of gargantuan mistakes promptly tried to explain his statement. Captain Cook in an interview was obviously flattered by the initial remarks and tried to laugh off the comments made by his opposite number, though I'm sure I read in his eyes "Yes, I am that good, you'd better believe baby"…..though I could be imagining it. 

Anyway, enough of that, back to the actual Test match.
It was all looking oh so promising at the end of day 1 - well, the sun was shining for a start. Alistair Cook once again couldn't be arsed with winning the Toss, so that left Brendon McCullum to continue his love affair with Cook's batting by offering to bowl first. He did make some lame excuse about the pitch being a little green and probably offering some movement….. but we all know what you really meant Brendan.

Cook had obviously seen through this facade and decided that he wasn't going to be any body's love object and so opted to forget about his magnificent batting average, instead opting to make only 17 after chipping tamely to mid-on. The day actually belonged to Messrs Compton and Trott as their second-wicket stand of 210 became cornerstone of England's imposing 267-2 by the end of day one. It wasn't a great run rate in comparison to modern standards, but it put us firmly in the driving seat.

Day 2 saw England continue in much of the same vein having converted their overnight 267-2 into a rather fine 465, which is apparently our highest total at the Basin Reserve. The highlight of which was a rather fine swashbuckling counter-attacking innings from Matt Prior ( who according to my friend Sara Terry, is a very nice man). He swiftly made sure our innings, which was in danger of meandering to an unsatisfying total after one or two cock-ups (yes Mr Bell, I'm talking about you) ended on a high. There was a welcome return to form for Stuart Broad struck twice in two balls to help England take control in the afternoon - though the Twitterverse was again annoyed when he failed to take a hat-trick. Even though he took care of Hamish Rutherford and Ross Taylor in immediate succession, some people just weren't satisfied it seems.

By the end of day 2 the Black Caps had stumbled to 66-3, still 399 runs behind.

Day 3 saw Stuart Broad get a six-wicket haul as the Kiwis were bowled out for 254 and just agonizingly short of the follow-on total. 

6 for Broad - not too shabby

Captain Cook decided to ignore Geoffrey Boycott's cries from the Test Match Special commentary box to bat again, England decided  to enforce the follow-on as the depressing weather forecast made this the only logical decision. Sorry Geoffrey. However,New Zealand had obviously failed to read my script and instead stubbornly rallied to close at the end of the day on 77-1, still 134 behind.

Day 4 saw our normally all-conquering  bowlers being a tad short of their best as the combination of the remnants of Cyclone Sandra and the benign pitch meant a frustrating day in Wellington. Jimmy 'Golden god' Anderson's dismissal of Peter Fulton was the only bright spark before a) rain limited day four of the second Test to 34 overs and b) I fell asleep on the sofa. Before the advent of the rain which decimated the the afternoon's play,  Williamson (55no) and Ross Taylor  had doubled the overnight total in an unbroken stand of 81, leaving the New Zealanders on 162 for 2 and trailing by a measly 49 runs. 

So if I was a betting man I would suggest that another draw is on the cards. I'll update the final day of this Test match if that naughty little minx, cyclone Sandra has her way….

Day 5 More rain. A draw. Bugger.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Tour of New Zealand 2013 - part 5

First Test - Dunedin

Day 1

"Play may start any minute lads, honest!"

So, after weeks of waiting for the vastly inferior forms of cricket to be done with (of course, as we won both series they are not regarded quite as inferior as they once were) the excitement in me was palpable - England were about to play Test cricket once again! Well as it turned out, they weren't.

Captain Cook continued his tried and tested ingenious ploy of throwing the opposing team into confusion by deciding once again to lose the toss. The New Zealanders took one look at the light and cloud and thought that they may get the odd wicket so decided to put our boys in to bat. However, just as Captain Cook was padding up the weather decided to ignore the fact that I too had fully prepared for the onset of gods' own game - my iPad was fully charged, supper was prepared, a nice glass of wine was at hand…..perfect. That was, except for the rather annoying fact of bad light at the beginning of play and then incessant rain for the rest of the day. Dunedin looks like a nice place, but it's climate is notoriously temperamental (regular drizzle & lots of cloud) - in fact I believe I'm right in saying that the name is actually Gaelic for 'Edinburgh'. It seems the Scots when travelling halfway around the world to find better climes were only finally satisfied when we found a place that was actually wetter and colder than the old homeland….. ( I'm half Scottish and live in the North East of Scotland so I'm OK in saying that - I think!). The perfect place to hold a cricket match then. I know, before anybody says anything, glass houses and all that.

So, no play at all on day one. At least that meant a decent nights sleep for me then.

Day 2

First the good news; the bad light and rain had disappeared, play was starting earlier to make up for some lost time and we were in for a day of England batting. Well in fact it turns out we were in for just 55 overs of English 'batting' as they were scuttled out by the Kiwis for just 167. Oh dear.  

Whether the preparations for the Test series were undercooked, a case of English overconfidence or quite simply (perish the thought) the New Zealand side is better than the English side, this was about an abject first day batting performance that I can remember for a long time. England's batsmen, with the exception of Trott, showed an alarming lack of application on what is obviously a benign surface. However, even Trott, who made 45, was one of many English of batsmen to lose their wickets to reckless strokes.

Even our Captain fantastic, normally the epitome of rock solid dependability caught the reckless bug after meekly hitting to point off Wagner. The New Zealand bowler then annoyingly swung the next delivery back in to trap Kevin Pietersen with a nailed on lbw. A mini-recovery was only short lived when Ian Bell drilled a Wagner half-volley straight to a Kiwi fielder. Joe Root was soon caught at third slip as he fenced at one slanted across him. Martin also accounted for three wickets in two overs after lunch, once again as the result of our boys trying to force the game when it didn't actually need forcing. Prior was out to a long-hop, Trott top-edged a rare sweep and Broad holed out on the boundary to another ordinary short ball.. Finn and Anderson provided a side show stand of 47 with a few nicely selected shots 47 for the ninth wicket. Though England's obsession with their aggressive approach when Finn succumbed to another Keystone cop moment was no surprise.
If that wasn't enough, Hamish Rutherford decided to rub a truckload of salt into England's gaping wounds when New Zealand came into bat. Rutherford's unbeaten 77 led the hosts to 131-0 by the close - trailing by 36.

"You've got to respect the game and today England didn't respect the game. They took the mickey out of Mr Cricket. England's mindset has been over-confident; they weren't prepared to do the hard yards." Michael Vaughan.

A bit harsh methinks, Michael……...

"England's performance was the worst opening day of a first Test I can remember. It was something of a shock and England will be absolutely devastated by the way they performed. They only have themselves to blame." Jonathan Agnew.

I couldn't have put it better myself Aggers……..

Day 3

Something of an improvement for England today - but lets face it, it couldn't have been much worse than yesterday. Yes, we took 7 wickets, with Jimmy Anderson bowling with skill and aggression , particularly during decent looking spell after lunch that brought him three wickets in seven overs, but it was a rare period of England dominance. Jimmy also had a couple of moments that bordered on petulance when the frustrations of the last 2 days came to the surface, particularly showing a rather fiery send off to Ross Taylor when he was given out. Sometimes we need to know the difference between a petulant and aggressive approach to the opposition. The Aussies historically have had the balance practically perfect, we need to do the same. Yes, acting like a bit of a bully and not taking one's foot of the oppositions throat is good ( Steve Waugh, the epitome of good aggressive captaincy and play). Acting like a sulky schoolboy is not. 

For a it seemed that the Kiwis would be limited to a significant but reachable lead. However, this was Hamish Rutherford's day as he transformed his overnight 77 into a bloody good 171 - the seventh highest score on Test debut. So far the match has belonged without doubt to the 23-year-old son of Ken Rutherford, who essentially was even more assured as each over progressed. This guy might turn into a bit of a player..
The standing ovation he was afforded as he left the field, having struck 22 fours and three sixes, was richly deserved. He had scored two-thirds of his side's runs. That was until McCullum came in to bat - so that might change tomorrow. 
I'm still the optimist…….we can still get something out of this…….some may say that I'm delusional, or maybe its just the sleep deprivation that I'm suffering from.

Day three at stumps: New Zealand (402-7) lead England (167) by 235 runs.

Day 4

This day quite simply, is why many of us love Test cricket. From an England performance point of view, the first day of play resembled nothing short of a Keystone Cop level of shambles. The second day was a lighter shade of shambolic perhaps, but still pretty rubbish. Today, backbone had to be restored to the batting line-up, we needed men of substance, calibre and for them to show us their qualities. Step forward Messrs. Cook and Compton.  

Now, regular readers and people who know me (whether they like the fact that they know me or not) will be familiar with my man-love for captain Fantastic Cook. I sincerely believe that by the end of his career ol' square jaw will have just about broken any and all English, and possibly many international batting records. The man quite simply is a run machine. Today, with only the odd hiccup along the way, he was first of the opening pair to reach his 100, his 24th Test century, his sixth in seven Tests as captain at an average of 85.83! He also became only the third Englishman after Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell to score hundreds against all of the other eight Test-playing nations. I like this guy. If I was a young kid again he, and not the more flamboyant players such as KP et al, would be the cricketing hero of mine who would be inspiring me with dreams of playing against the Aussies to secure the Ashes. (I do still have those dreams, but I'll keep that little fantasy between me and you)….. though if Andy Flowers dies ever happen to come across this little piece of online prose - I still have my whites and boots at the ready ;-)

The fact that the opening pair batted for 84 overs, which is a grand total of 29 more than the entire team did on the first day, says much for their application and concentration today. What was even more special was that this came after not only the hugely disappointing first 2 days but also after New Zealand showed us all how to kick a team when they were down after adding 58 in 8.4 spectacular overs at the start of the day. Thus ensuring that any idea our boys had of knocking off a few quick wickets and gain some much needed momentum was well and truly knocked on the head after Brendon McCullum's deliciously contemptuous innings.

For Compton - on a pair, and with all the speculation about his future in the side from media and cricket fans alike - to play the way he did and score a hundred says everything about the man's determination, and character. I can't remember the last time I was so happy to see an English Cricketer reach triple figures.

Bloody hell, one day left, nine wickets left. We might get that draw out of this…...

England close on 234-1 - trailing by 59 runs.

Day 5

Steve Finn doing his best Lieutenant John Chard impression

The final day. Starting nearly 60 runs behind meant that some serious Rorke's Drift type behind the barricades stoicism was needed from our batsmen, a few early loss of wickets would have meant for a nail-biting night. 

So who was going to be our Lieutenant Chard, our Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, or even our Private James Hook? The usual volunteers were all there and reporting for duty; Trott, stoic and methodical; Bell, master stroke player but flawed; Pietersen, genius and a game changer, but deeply flawed. so who was it going to be?……..

Step forward, er, Steve Finn!!??

Finn had come in the previous evening as nightwatchman for the final few overs. The decision to even have a nightwatchman is always a contentious one, I for one think that more times than not it is a less than effective method, especially if the player survives to the next day and then wastes numerous overs achieving few runs. Until this match, the role for England had previously been filled by Jimmy Anderson, so this was Finn's first jaunt. It turns out that he is a bit good at it, making 56, beating his previous highest first-class score of 32. All in all he stayed at the crease for 203 balls in 286 minutes on his first outing as England’s nightwatchman to frustrate New Zealand efforts and essentially held the innings together, despite New Zealand's best efforts.

By close of play, our boys had held firm, converting the shortfall of 59 at the start of the day into a lead of 128 by the time they closed on 421-6. New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum decided against banging his head against the pitch in abject frustration and instead shook hands on a draw an hour before the scheduled close…… I had fallen asleep by this time, the lack of problems offered by the placid pitch meant that even I of dubious eternal optimism, could only see one result. 

As admirable as our second innings was, we should not forget the abject failure of the manner of the first innings capitulation - 167 runs all out is pathetic, simple as. Why oh why do we seem to constantly struggle in the opening Test of a series? If one was to do ones research, which I have, one would find that England have won the first Test of a tour only once in the last 14 attempts - and that was against blooming Bangladesh in 2010!

I'll leave to Geoffrey Boycott to sum it up perfectly…..

"England will have to look at the plusses rather than the minuses. The plusses are that the two or three batsmen who haven't played much cricket since Christmas did well. Compton got a hundred and Prior got a few runs, so that's looking bright. Cook, Trott, Root and Bell are all in good nick too. The only minus is Kevin Pietersen. He looks rusty, but Kevin is Kevin and he will just have to get into the nets."

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Tour of New Zealand 2013 - part 4

Queenstown - Final warm up match before the 1st Test

It is a well known scientific fact that the England Cricket team never does anything the easy way. In fact it has also been empirically proven beyond all probability that the England team, will on occasion AND without warning, either defy the laws of cricketing physics and logic, or do a Derren Brown-type social experiment and almost by magic, force many of us loyal fans pull our hair out in fits of frustration. Indeed there is a secret mathematical formula for this scientific problem, also known as 'Gower's declaration against the West Indies conundrum' for teaching the ability to England captains and their team to grab defeats from the jaws of victory.

Queenstown cricket ground - 'It's a bit nice'

It was all looking so very good - and I'm not just talking about as stunning a backdrop to a game of Cricket one could ever hope for.  The cricket ground at Queenstown is rather nicely nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the sprawling ridges and mountains of the Southern Alps and is about as picturesque a place to watch gods own game as you can get. That is,  if you like that sort of picturesque thing.

No, I'm talking about the state of the match at the beginning of the 4th and final day. England had declared their second innings overnight at 256-9, setting the New Zealand XI 334 to win. Thus giving us the opportunity to bowl out the opposition and give us a bit of a boost before the first Test match next week - no problem then. Well, actually there was, because the cheeky and cunning New Zealanders had come to an all-together different conclusion and try to win the game themselves - tricky beggars.

BJ Watling being a bit annoying & scoring lots of runs
For one thing, the England bowlers in his occasion failed to deliver, with Graham Onions in particular coming in for a bit of stick conceding 82 runs off 16 wicket-less overs as New Zealand reached their target with still seven overs of the day remaining. There were notable knocks from BJ Watling and Hamish Rutherford which were key for the hosts, with the wicket keeper finishing with 89 from 122 balls, which included eight fours and two sixes. Rutherford, who will definitely figure in the first Test, got the innings off to the best start with 33 off 42 balls.

So depending on which publication you read today - its either the end of the series right now with England returning to the bad old days of cocking tours up before they had even started, or it's all just a 'blip' on our road to regaining the number one status back from the Saffers. Lets go for the latter then eh?

The ' lets be phlegmatic about this', or in other words,  the getting our excuses in first, section

1) For a start this was the first time the our boys had lost a first-class tour match since 2006. If any of you reading this are sad enough to think about researching actually what the last game we lost was, don't bother, it was the eight-wicket defeat against an India Board President's XI in February 2006. Yes I'm that sad and looked it up.

2) England - were without rested front line seamers James (Golden god) Anderson and Steven, erm, Finn. 

3) The New Zealand XI featured 10 players with international experience with five of their team in the squad to face England again next week in the first of three Tests in the series. On the one hand that's a good excuse for why we lost, they have some good players then. However it could be a bad thing for next week's Test match, because they have some good players then.

4) We've had the chance to have a look at a few of their players, particularly their batsman. Well at least  Graham Onions did with the amount of runs he conceded in the match as they ran past him.

So lets not panic eh?

To be honest, my main concern is the fact that the New Zealand cricket board flatly ignored my emails asking if the games could be played at British daylight time - a bit rude of them I thought. Particularly as it was a well thought out argument regarding my not being able to stay up and watch the whole proceeding live as I have to get up for work. Disappointed.

My prediction for the series - 3 nil to Captain Cook and the boys.