New Zealand changed the ball and lost the game
The 1st Test between England and New Zealand had all the reasons to be remembered for Joe Root only. However, the game was enthralling even keeping Root out of the picture.
The game of extremely fine margin took the tiniest of incidents to make a difference between the two sides.
There can be arguments about which incident changed the course of the game. The brilliant over of Stuart Broad in the 3rd innings maybe? In the 84th over of the innings, he broke the partnership of 195 runs by dismissing the centurion Daryl Mitchell. The next two deliveries of that over saw two more dismissals which completely exposed New Zealand’s middle order.
Then again, New Zealand put up a target of 278 which looked more than enough given the proceedings of the game.
Some might say that it was the 2nd life of Ben Stokes that turned the game. In the 27th over of the last innings, New Zealand’s ‘Golden arm’ Collin De Grandhomme bowled Stokes. Stokes was only on 1, England were struggling on 76/4. Stokes’s dismissal meant it was 76/5.
But it turned out to be a no-ball, a huge lifeline for England and their skipper. He utilised it with both hands scoring 54 and creating a 90 runs partnership before being dismissed.
Still, England needed 109 more runs to win with 5 wickets in hand. A batting collapse is always on the cards for England, at least from what we have seen in the last couple of years. So, New Zealand were in the game till then. Then what brought them out of the game? The ball change.
You read it right. In the 56th over, Kiwi skipper Williamson asked umpire Rod Tucker to change the ball. The Kiwi bowlers were not comfortable with the softness of the ball. The umpires found a close enough replacement.
And then the Kiwi seamers couldn’t generate the swing, which was the main factor deciding the game, as before.
In the 10 overs before changing the ball, the average swing generated was 1.6 degrees. It fell to 0.6 degrees in the next 10 overs itself after the change.
The impact can be shown in the scoreboard too. In the last 10 overs of the seamers, before the bowling change, England managed to score 38 runs only.
But after that new ball, they managed to score 101 runs in 23.5 overs. This is at a time when Ben Foakes was taking his time to settle, Joe Root was fighting his nerve to reach the milestone. Both Ben Foakes and Joe Root didn’t seem to face any sort of difficulties handling the bowlers since then.
And that is where New Zealand lost the game. The change of ball proved to be too costly for the Kiwis. England fans loved it nonetheless.
Well, this will be a case to reflect on for the captains that softer balls might do the trick sometimes.