Normal Service Resumed


The retirement of a legend

Normal service thankfully resumed at Hagley Oval this week, leaving the main focus to rightfully be on the Test Match retirement of Sir Ross Taylor.

So much has already been well written and presented about Ross Taylor during the last fortnight. About the only thing left to add is that he is one of the most relatable international cricketers playing the game at the highest level. Most of us wanted to be brilliant batters and to slog the ball through mid-wicket, but 99.9% of us only manage the latter part.

There aren’t as many fairytale finishes in sport as we’d like, so we were lucky to witness one this afternoon. Taylor got to go out of Test cricket on his own terms, as a winner, and taking the final wicket. As @Godder well notes: “That’s like taking the last conversion in your final test, but better!”

Underbowled?
Even better, Taylor has left us with the nagging thought that he might have been under bowled during his career 😉 He finishes Test cricket with a bowling average of 16… and incidentally a batting average of 44.66. Sir Paddles would have loved those averages.

The call for Taylor to bowl had started to emerge on the embankment at Bay Oval. Partly for some variation there, though mainly for the farewell. Based on the Spark feed, that call only got louder at Hagley Oval. The final wicket going to Taylor seemed all but foretold once Latham gave the 80th over to him. Steve Smith hadn’t taken a test wicket in six years up until Sunday, and given it was about that long since Ross had a bowl in an international, the same seemed guaranteed for a fairy tale ending.

The match itself
Normal service resumed at Hagley Oval after five days of what the … is this? at Mount Maunganui. The difference this time was big, fast runs on the board from the Black Caps, and the possibility that Bangladesh had mentally already achieved their Mount Everest for the series.

Will Young and Devon Conway continued their excellent normal service, another half-century and century respectively. Tom Latham fronted big time with a Captain’s Knock of 252, the first time that number has been scored in Test Cricket. To me, what’s even more impressive than the runs is; how do you bat for a whole day in the sun without eventually just missing a straight one from losing concentration? CricInfo tells me he batted for 552 minutes in total.

The rest then followed The Script. A Bangladeshi batting collapse in the face of good, tight Test bowling brought the comfortingly familiar questions of;

  • Shall we enforce the follow on?
  • Are we going to win within three days or four?

So what does it all mean?
In some ways the series generated more questions than answers. There were some curious signs on the Indian tour, which are perhaps too easily written off on the grounds that it is a genuinely hard place to tour. A series draw at home against Bangladesh is not really a pass mark.

So is it a case of Steve Hansen metaphorically flushing the dunny after Bay Oval? Does normal service resuming mean it was just a one off 'mare, or are there some deeper issues emerging?

It’s potentially easy to dismiss the excellent performances in Christchurch as “well, we expected that”. But if it was as easy to perform as that, we’d have done the same at the Mount.

  • Is the batting a bit flaky after the top order?
  • How about our pace attack in less friendly conditions?
  • What to do (or not do) about spin?

There’s plenty of discussion to be had on those, but it looks like the the true litmus test of the 2021/22 Test Match summer will be South Africa. We’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of play at the Basin Reserve about whether we’re on track to defend the Mace.

Moment of the match:

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