England’s familiar failing down to poor preparation – Boycott

New Zealand's Neil Wagner (left) celebrates taking the wicket of England captain Alastair Cook (bottom) as Jonathan Trott looks-on
New Zealand's Neil Wagner (left) celebrates taking the wicket of England captain Alastair Cook (bottom) as Jonathan Trott looks-on
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Waking up to the news that England have disappointed on the first competitive day of a Test series on the far side of the world has become a bit of a theme in recent years.

More often than not, the anticipation felt at the dawn of a new series is extinguished hours later either because of a batting collapse or through a barren opening day for the bowling attack.

Yesterday was another such day when televisions, radios and the internet were turned to with a genuine sense of hope, only for that to be deflated seconds later with news of yet another calamitous start by England.

This time it was a fall to 167 all out on the second day of the rain-interrupted first Test with New Zealand.

It was the fourth successive time that England have begun an away trip by being bowled out for under 200.

They were dismissed for 191 by India in Ahmedabad last November, 193 by Sri Lanka in Colombo and 192 by Pakistan in Dubai. In the last two of those, England at least fought back to take something from the series, most notably, and memorably, when they defeated India 2-1.

But slow starts for England are by no means a new trend.

You have to go back to the days of Yorkshire’s Michael Vaughan wearing the armband to find the root of these lethargic openings.

In all, England have not won a first Test on foreign soil against an opponent other than Bangladesh since they defeated South Africa in Port Elizabeth by seven wickets in December, 2004.

They are unlikely to reverse that trend in Dunedin, no matter how well they equipped themselves on day three.

Why is a team challenging at the top of the Test rankings subject to such a bad habit?

Sir Geoffrey Boycott told BBC’s Test Match Special it was down to minimal warm-up tests.

“You need better preparation,” commented Boycott, who said prior to the three-Test series that Andy Flower’s men needed more than the one pre-series run-out.

“I hope someone tells managing director Hugh Morris, who is probably sleeping back in England, when he wakes up that we’re talking about the poor preparation.

“England were sloppy, careless, and I feel there’s almost a holiday atmosphere.

“Stats don’t lie. They don’t tell you everything, but they tell you something. There’s no shame in changing something if it’s not working.

“If it keeps happening and they cock up with the batting, then they will have to keep chasing. You don’t want to be chasing all the time.”

The verdict was not as forthright from inside the camp, but at least England’s players recognise there is a problem.

Jonathan Trott showed the most resistance on a day when seamer Neil Wagner and debutant slow left-armer Bruce Martin shared eight wickets.

But the No 3 was also among at least seven batsmen – including four specialists – who contributed significantly to their own dismissal on a blameless pitch.

Afterwards, he admitted he and his team-mates are none the wiser as to the root cause of their repeat offences.

“We put ourselves under pressure with our performance with the bat,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a lack of effort; we made a conscious effort to start the series really well. We looked at that and thought, ‘we’ve always been on the back foot at the start of the series’ and we tried to correct that – and we didn’t get it right. You can’t get away from the fact.”

Trott could only scratch his head when asked why familiar failings had resurfaced.

“I think the guys have worked really hard in (the tour match defeat in) Queenstown, and here – and it just wasn’t our day,” he added.

“We’ve all felt really good, and you can’t fault the guys’ commitment in the nets to get ready for a big series like this.

“We (just) didn’t bat very well. I’m sure that was pretty obvious.”

The recurring theme in England’s innings was of batsmen trying to dominate, even as wickets were falling, failing to keep the ball down and finding willing catchers.

“It was just poor shots, and misjudgment maybe, that we got ourselves out with,” said Trott.

“The shots were on, but we just didn’t execute them right.

“I think every batsmen put their hands up and said, ‘we didn’t play the way we should have’.”

The displeasure of Flower was a given.

Trott said: “Andy is pretty philosophical, but he knows the right time to put his foot down and say ‘that’s not good enough’. I’m not particularly happy with how things went – I don’t think anyone is – but I don’t think there is the need for a ‘hairdryer’ treatment. There are 13 days of Test cricket left, and we hope we can win those.”

Monty Panesar’s success with the Test side over the winter has seen the Sussex left-arm spinner rewarded with an England increment contract for 2012-13.

Non-contracted players can earn an England increment contract via a points system and Panesar qualifies, having played three Test matches against India and a Test match against New Zealand.

England’s first test woes on their travels

v India at Ahmedabad – Nov 15-19, 2012; India 521-8d 80-1; England 191 and 406 (f/o); India won by 9 wickets; England won 2-1.

v Sri Lanka at Galle – Mar 26-29, 2012; Sri Lanka 318 and 214; England 193 and 264; Sri Lanka won by 75 runs; Series drawn 1-1.

v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC) – Jan 17-19, 2012; England 192 and 160; Pakistan 338 and 15-0; Pakistan won by 10 wickets; England lost 3-0.

v Australia at Brisbane – Nov 25-29, 2010; England 260 and 517-1d; Australia 481 and 107-1; draw; England won 3-1.

v South Africa at Centurion – Dec 16-20, 2009; South Africa 418 and 301-7d; England 356 and 228/9; draw; Series drawn 1-1.

v West Indies at Kingston – Feb 4-7, 2009; England 318 and 51; West Indies 392; West Indies won by an innings and 23 runs; England lost 1-0.

v India at Chennai – Dec 11-15, 2008; England 316 and 311-9d; India 241 and 387/4; India won by 6 wickets; England lost 1-0.

v New Zealand at Hamilton – Mar 5-9, 2008; New Zealand 470 and 177-9d; England 348 and 110; New Zealand won by 189 runs; England won 2-1.

v Sri Lanka at Kandy – Dec 1-5, 2007; Sri Lanka 188 and 442-8d; England 281 and 261; Sri Lanka won by 88 runs; England lost 1-0.

v Australia at Brisbane – Nov 23-27, 2006; Australia 602-9d and 202-1d; England 157 and 370; Australia won by 277 runs; England lost 5-0.

v India at Nagpur – Mar 1-5, 2006; England 393 and 297-3d; India 323 and 260-6; draw; Series drawn 1-1.

v Pakistan at Multan – Nov 12-16, 2005; Pakistan 274 and 341; England 418 and 175; Pakistan won by 22 runs; England lost 2-0.