So let’s try and get this right: this is new, old, new, old, old England. They appear to be, as the saying goes, “playing good, Test-match cricket”: carefully but not negatively.
Except what if the phrase is nonsense? In recent times, cricket has changed more than almost any other sport, but because the game’s fundamentals have stayed the same, “playing good, Test-match cricket” cannot mean anything more than “being good at batting, bowling and fielding”. If you do it, it makes little difference how you do it; do it however you do it but do it, often.
The reason that England’s batsmen have failed and collapsed, repeatedly, isn’t the way they played, but their inability to pull it off. Thanks to those those aforementioned fundamentals, we’ve seen Test sides whack it about on the reg before, and they did it that way because that was the best way for them; that was “playing good, Test-match cricket”. Anything that works in a Test match constitutes “playing good, Test-match cricket”.
And, because I’m absolutely one to get carried away about one day of Test cricket, I can absolutely assert that England have found their way of “playing good, Test-match cricket”. Defending good balls, mainly defending ok balls, mainly whacking bad balls. The line-up looks much better balanced, Ben Stokes is a joke, and Ollie Pope is no joke.
However, there is every chance New Zealand will bundle them out in the first hour this morning. The ball is still new, the bowlers are still excellent, and the two can easily combine to inflict some “playing good, Test-match cricket” on England.
This is going to be excellent.
Play: 10pm GMT, 11am local time