England maybe did not live up to expectations at the Bay Oval in New Zealand. An innings defeat on a lifeless pitch was not supposed to happen. Looking at the firepower and experience on show, on paper, England should have done a whole lot better. One should never downplay the opposition, and there can be no place for arrogance or complacency, but a batting order coming up against the likes of Broad, Archer, Curran and Stokes should not really be outperforming a batting order facing against de Grandhomme, Wagner, Boult and Southee. So how did New Zealand outplay England to such a degree at Mount Maunganui?
We have seen it before, a bowler of limited pace absolutely dominating the England batters. At Lord’s last summer, Ireland and Middlesex medium pacer, Tim Murtagh bowled England out with figures of 5/13 in the first innings. Yes, England went on to dominate the test overall, but Murtagh showed the damage a bowler of no more than mid 70mph can do against the best in the world. Similarly in New Zealand, Colin de Grandhomme, arguably a bowler of limited ability made the England batters struggle. Who can forget the Eddo Brandes episode in Zimbabwe in 1997 when the chicken farmer took 5/28!! Darren Stevens’ gentle medium paced ability to trouble batters on the county circuit in 2019 was evident with his 10/92 against Nottinghamshire earned him a contract extension.
Even Neil Wager does not possess the express pace usually required to cause the best batters real problems, and yet he did. What all these bowlers possess is an acceptance of their limitations. All of them know and accept who they are and what they can do and are comfortable and confident with that. They are not trying to be anything else, they know their game inside out and they play to their strengths. Whilst not possessing express pace, it is still possible to display confidence and even aggression. To see Neil Wagner run in puffing his chest out shows huge belief in his own ability and crucially in his game plan. He knows that if he can get the ball where he wants it and, crucially, he has his fielders in the right place for the batter and conditions, he knows he will create chances, despite his lack of high pace. In exactly the same way, Colin de Grandhomme, whilst being met with a big grin from Joe Root as a bouncer sailed harmlessly over his head, knew that he was in control of the situation. It was the very next ball that de Grandhomme wore the smile as Root was only able to steer a short pitched, but well-directed ball to gully.
So what does this mean for you, the promoted club bowler thinking about bowling at Premier League batters for the first time next season? Are you a school bowler about to debut in your school 1st XI excited about the step up in challenge? Perhaps you are a young county bowler about to break into the 1st team in 2020? You will undoubtedly feel nervous about the prospect of bowling at established batters, possibly those you have watched on tv, or live on the county circuit. Maybe they will be school boys or girls who on your circuit you have heard ‘can bat a bit’. Your thoughts will inevitably turn inward. Will you make an impact? With acceptance of your limitations, with an understanding of your strengths, with belief in your plan and an ability to assess the situation and play the game accordingly, you will find the same success that the likes of de Grandhomme, Murtagh and Brandes enjoyed against batters who, on paper, you should not really trouble. This is a game that is largely played in the mind, and if you can control yours to believe in your own ability, accept that you are likely playing where you are through your own efforts and successes, you will make your impact.
Use the time over the winter to work on finding out exactly what it is you can do with the ball, find a way that, in bowling to your strengths, you can cause problems. When you have an understanding of these elements you can, with help from your senior bowlers and coaches, begin to form a plan that you and your team can get behind and believe in. When you have a group of players behind you that buy into your strengths, and you have the confidence and courage to believe in it too, you will enjoy success on the field next season.
A Leading Edge now have 3 books for sale on Amazon.co.uk. Cricket: A Leading Edge for Captains is available as a paperback (£12.99) and eBook (£3.99). Books are also from Walkers Bookshops in Oakham and Stamford, and from CM Cricket in Stoughton, Leicester. You can also buy The Ashes Illustrated and Dice Sports, two fantastic stocking fillers