127th over: England 539-9 (Leach 0, Anderson 9) Bracewell slows it down so Anderson speeds it up, stretching a long leg down the track and slog-sweeping for a one-bounce four. So Bracewell goes wider … and out comes the reverse for four more! That’ll be drinks, and this has been a tremendous first hour of play.
126th over: England 531-9 (Leach 0, Anderson 1) Boult is into this now, the ball moving nicely for him – I daresay Anderson is taking notes for when he gets on his bowling boots sometime after tea. He’s totally befuddled by one that leaves him, then takes a single to fine leg and enjoys a word with yerman on the way down the other end.
“I may be in a minority” says Gary Naylor, “but I quite like England’s approach here. The stated aim is to win the Test, so getting on with getting the 10 wickets might be more important than grinding out 35 more runs in an hour.”
I agree. If I’m Stokes, I’m wanting a bit of a lead to increase the pressure, but from here England are much more likely to be defeated by time than by New Zealand.
Five for Boult, his tenth in Tests, and the first non-caught of the match! What a bowler he is. This is a terrific delivery and wasted on Potts really, an inswinging yorker that has him shuffling towards leg as his pegs are splayed. He’s had better mornings.
125th over: England 528-8 (Potts 1, Leach 0) Of course, that wicket brings Jack Leach to the wicket, so New Zealand should be careful what they wish for, and we zoom in on a crestfallen Potts who sold his mate a donkey. He gets off the mark – in Test cricket – with a shove to long on, which makes me wonder how many batters have run someone out before they’ve scored.
My sister and I were watching some county cricket in the late 80s,” says John Harrison, “when the crowd started singing ‘there’s only one Eddie Hemmings.’ We tried to join in (badly) and our mum’s disgust was such she corrected us hilariously by singing in the most high-pitched, choral and un-terrace like fashion you could imagine. To this day when she sings its called her Eddie Hemmings voice.”
Excellent – I’m always shocked by how bad sports singing is. Voices like lumps of meat, as my dad’s barmitzvah teacher was fond of saying to boys who didn’t meet his standards of warbling.
Potts bunts to mid on and calls Foakes through – for his part, Foakes wants Potts of the mark and the strike. But there’s never a run there, so when Latham chucks to the non-striker’s, Bracewell has plenty of time to remove the bails. After a dreadful start to the morning, New Zealand have pulled it around well.
124th over: England 527-7 (Foakes 56, Potts 0) Foakes almost hands Boult his five, missing an edge by fibres, but survives a maiden. His stubble is a feat of engineering, perfectly built and maintained.
123rd over: England 527-7 (Foakes 56, Potts 0) Potts tries to get off the mark but can’t.
“Hi Daniel, loving the show,” begins great friend of it, John Plunkett. “Every wicket has been out caught so far, is this some kind of record? Or if not, might we be heading to one?”
Broad slashes and though the ball is past Mitchell, he leaps one-handed to hold a beauty. Amazingly, Broad walks.
123rd over: England 527-6 (Foakes 56, Broad 9) Yup, Bracewell into the attack – I daresay Broad is there for precisely this eventuality, and that we might see some action in the next little bit. Shonuff, after Foakes nurdles a single into the on side, Broad gets down on one knee to caress around the corner for four. The audacity!
122nd over: England 522-6 (Foakes 55, Broad 5) Boult, fifer hunting, sends one into Broad’s pads, which the maestro flicks to finest leg for four. Don’t bowl there son! I think we might see some spin next.
“I’ve now had two dreams in which I’ve been fielding in the slips – the first of which I was alongside Andrew Flintoff,” says Katie Allen. “Both times I’ve stuck my hand up for a catch … and knocked everything off my bedside table.”
Well obviously – it was Freddie’s ball.
121st over: England 518-6 (Foakes 55, Broad 1) Foakes takes a single to point, then Broad gets himself away with a shove into the off side. They’re the only runs off the over.
“Maybe Root playing these Buttler-like shots, is part of the new mindset garnered by McCullum and Stokes, maybe with Foakes being the better keeper, Jos could get back into the test team if Bairstow doesn’t deliver. I believe Buttler without the stress of wicketkeeping, is a potential great middle-order Test-player, in this new mindset.”
I’d given up on Buttler I must say, but amid all the debate about his merits, people tended to forget that he almost never came in with anything even half-decent on the board. If that changes, I agree he might get another go, but I’m also laughing at myself for saying that.
120th over: England 516-6 (Foakes 54, Broad 0) Is Stuart Broad batting? Yes he is, sent out ahead of Matty Potts, presumably to throw hands and anything else he can find – there was talk of sending him in early at Lord’s on the penultimate evening, the rationale that a few lusty blows would’ve near-enough finished things. He plays out three dots.
“‘If it can be turned into childcare,’” says Tony White. “You mean using the children as stumps?! Enjoying the new OBO with no worries about who will open, who will be left out, who will be keeper, etc. Non-disclosure contract with Mr Stokes?”
One of many great friends of the show.
Root gives it away. I’m only joking, but he looks gutted walking off – people like him are built differently to the rest of us – having guided a slower ball straight to cover. It’s not a difficult catch, but credit to Southee for taking it after the morning he’s had.
119th over: England 516-5 (Root 176, Foakes 54) Foakes pulls two through midwicket, then four through backward square to raise the hundred partnership; this is very fine batting indeed, and yet another four raises his 50 when Southee sends down a short wide one that’s despatched through cover to the fence. Wow, what is going on here?! Foakes is timing it like God’s dad here, and an attempted yorker allows him to push four more; that’s 14 off the over, the deficit now 37. Something might be happening here.
“My prized autograph was from that great bustler of a cricketer, Eddie Hemmings,” says James Debens. “I’ve lost it now, many house moves later, but the memories of collecting it at Canterbury are undimmed and sweet. I was about 14. As a teenager, I loved how unlikely he was as a sportsman, rather more like the bank clerk in an Ealing comedy than an England bowler. However, Mr Hemmings had earned his place at the top table and was very polite to spotty young me at the match vs Kent. I remember him now as one of the last of the old bunch of gentleman-cricketers. The autograph is probably in an attic in east London.”
I only caught the end of him – Kapil’s four sixes are a strong memory – and also him aggravating Geoff Lawson with his devastating batting.
118th over: England 502-5 (Root 176, Foakes 40) Joe Root. I don’t even know what else to say. Boult chases in, and this time Root finds third man by allowing the ball to his his crossed bat, hit the ground, and race away past gully’s dive. He is just an absolute master – a poet and an artist, but with a strong sense of mischief. Boult. though, comes back well, tucking him up when he tries to cut for no reward. A single follows, then Foakes adds one more and England are motoring. That’s 29 off the first four overs this morning.
117th over: England 496-5 (Root 171, Foakes 39) Goodness me! Southee’s in, so Root goes chest on, spreads legs … and scoops him over the top for six! I know! He really did! He said this morning, when asked about a couple of bum shots he played yesterday – a slog-sweep off Southee in particular – that he briefly forgot who he was. But he also said that he was trying to hit the ball where the fielders aren’t so it made sense, and there’s no third man in now. Still, though, what a rrrridiculous individual Joe Root is – how do you stop someone scoring when they can merrily do that?
116th over: England 489-5 (Root 164, Foakes 39) It’s Boult from the other end, and he sends down five dots … and one gift onto the pads, which Foakes turns through square leg for another four.
“A bit serious this point,” tweets Gary Naylor, “but both Mr Swan’s dreams merely reflect guilt over neglecting family life in order to play cricket – an often neglected factor in the decline of recreational cricket.”
Yes, agreed – finding as much time as cricket takes to play is not easy, though it if can be turned into childcare that can help.
115th over: England 485-5 (Root 164, Foakes 35) Immediately, Root gets things moving with an adroit turn around the corner for one, then have a look! Southee hands one full outside off and it swings … but right onto the middle of Foakes’ bat, so he drives through cover for four, then next ball he does the same, though mid off manages to dive over his push. A three follows off the final delivery, and that’s a great start for England, 12 runs leaving the deficit just 68.
Tim Southee has the ball…
Out come our teams…
John Starbuck has an idea: “If all the psychologists since Freud were consulted about this dream, they would conclude that playing cricket at the top level is bloody difficult.”
It is – though I think John is also remembering childhood trauma.
“On the (unrelated) subject of cricket dreams,” emails John Swan, “I have two recurring ones. In the first, I have been recalled to the Test side as a useful bits and pieces player (off spin, doughty defensive batting, since you ask) and I am talking about it after the match to my work colleagues [the dream doesn’t relate, but I assume this means I am an amateur and had to take time off work at short notice to play, which was therefore at once thrilling and exasperating for my colleagues]. In the second, I am playing for my club [again, to anticipate your question, Bushley in Worcestershire, home of the famous Sir Ben Stokes Lane from 2019]. In this one, I am batting, but the pitch is strewn with random bric-a-brac (dining chairs, an old pram) which is making it next to impossible for the bowlers to land anything on the cut strip, but we all just carry on as if this is perfectly normal.
What does any of this mean? Surely the OBO crew will know…”
I was actually in Tel Aviv last week, where I came by this terrifying state of affairs.
“Greetings from Tel Aviv,” says Andy Lewis. “I’m desperately searching for the TMS overseas link for live commentary. Any chance you and your colleagues could post it each morning.”
It’s actually really easy to find these days – if you go to the match page on the BBC site, there’s a link to it at the bottom of the main photo. But here it is:
“I got Andy Goram’s autograph when he was Captain for Hibs in a 2~0 win over Rangers,” emails Neil Johnstone.” He was the first man to captain Scotland at cricket and football. Anyone else done that? He is also currently fighting cancer, so shout out to Andy.”
Yes, echo that.
Back to the pitch, Athers reckons it’s been fair, and had fewer catches been dropped, the scores would look very different. It’s also worth noting that England didn’t bowl well in the first session – though I’d have liked to see a little more action.
It’s a little bit grimy in Nottingham, and there’s some rain in the air – it might do a bit this morning. That could help New Zealand, but as Athers says, in high-scoring matches it’s the team batting third that tends to lose if there’s a positive result – and the speed of scoring here means that is still a possibility.
An email I got yesterday once I’d finished: “My favourite autograph was when we were living out in SA and my father took me to a club match,” says Juliam Menz. “We were at the Wanderers a lot, but suddenly I saw Graeme Pollock right next to me, waiting to bat, and summoned the courage to run up and ask for his autograph. He obliged, a true gentleman, and he introduced me to his nephew Shaun, barely knee-high at the time.”
Whatever happened to him?
“‘If England can bat most of the day…’” begins Ben Skelton, quoting me back to myself. “In what parallel universe is that going to happen? One where this pair put on another 200 runs? The tail starts at the fall of this wicket. Surely, the most likely winner remains New Zealand.”
I don’t see how New Zealand win from here. Of course, the most likely outcome is a draw, but just last week Root and Foakes built an unbeaten partnership of 120, on a track offering more to the bowlers and under more pressure. It’s unlikely they do so again today, but it’s hardly unfathomable.
Email! “Just off my weekly mentoring call with Dub Syndicate,” says Paul Griffin. “They are very pleased for Oliver Pope.”
It was such a joy to see him make that ton yesterday, and as I said at the time, just as much a joy to see how happy Joe Root was for him. Root’s on Sky now, saying he was – of course – “buzzing” and also that he knows how good Pope is and how hard he’s worked. “There are big tons in there,” he says, and thinks he’s got the talent “to do it again and again and again”. Oh, and then we see Pope and Ben Stokes applauding Root’s 150, mystification at his ludicrous genius plastered all over his coupon. Great stuff.
There’s a cyclical argument in English cricket that goes roughly like this: Test matches need to please spectators not suits, so require sporting tracks with something in them for everyone; but also, Test matches need to be testing, played on flat tracks that last four or more days, offering help only to the best bowlers. And either way, whenever things are slightly out of whack, it’s the fault of the county game.
So far, the Trent Bridge pitch has strayed towards the latter aspect, the combination of little movement and hurtling outfield the reason that, after three days, we’ve yet to complete our first innings. However, there’s still time: last evening, we saw signs of crumble and turn – as Thom Yorke nearly sung – that mean a positive result is still possible.
If England can bat most of the day, score extremely quickly or both, they’ll leave New Zealand a nasty last day to survive for draw. But to win, they’ll need some help from the pitch – and from the county game’s Jack Leach. Here we go!
Play: 11am BST