England's bowling attack lacks variety as New Zealand take control

NASSER HUSSAIN: England’s bowling attack looked one-dimensional when the ball got older against New Zealand… they must find extra pace or a high-quality spin option to challenge the world’s best Test sides

  • England only managed to take one wicket in the final two sessions of day two
  • The pace attack struggled to make any headway as the ball got older and softer
  • Meanwhile, Matt Parkinson was unable to find a consistent line and length
  • England must mix up their attack if they want to become the team to beat 

The first two days of this Lord’s Test have shown this new England set-up two major areas they need to work on.

The first was obvious on the first evening: when the ball does a bit, their batting line-up is found wanting. From 92 for two, they soon found themselves 100 for seven against excellent New Zealand bowling, and lost the chance to dictate terms yesterday morning.

The second became apparent as the pitch went flatter after lunch on day two, and the Dukes ball grew older and softer. As Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell bedded in, it was clear that England still need variety in their attack – either through extra pace or high-quality spin.

England suffered a batting collapse on Thursday night as familiar flaws were exposed

England’s bowling attack was made to look one-dimensional as the ball got older on Friday

Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell handled England’s attack to put New Zealand in control

That’s not to judge Matt Parkinson on a handful of overs on a flat second-day pitch at Lord’s. Even the great Shane Warne never picked up a five-wicket haul here. Parkinson needs time to develop, and it would help if England were clearer about the role they envisage for him, instead of taking him round the world and never giving him a game – until now.

But it’s obvious that England have to work out a gameplan before they arrive in Pakistan this winter, where flat, slow pitches are a fact of life. Partly for that reason, Parkinson should have played in the first two Tests in the West Indies.

It’s also why I couldn’t understand the fuss during the early weeks of this summer’s county championship about the ball going soft and batters helping themselves to runs.

Matt Parkinson finally bowled in Test Cricket on Friday, but failed to take a wicket

I was mystified by the reaction, and thought it was an insight into how cricket has been played in this country over the last decade, with the ball moving around and seamers helping themselves to wickets while the batters struggle.

My own reaction to the big county totals this summer was a bit different: welcome to the kind of conditions you might encounter in Test cricket, especially abroad, where the Kookaburra goes flat and the pitch even flatter.

I was shaking my head at the uproar, because these are precisely the conditions England will encounter in Pakistan. I’m sorry if that means county matches are less exciting for spectators, but are we trying to produce cricketers who can play Test matches, or aren’t we?

None of this is meant as criticism of England’s bowlers, who time and again – especially the seamers – have kept their side in the game after the batters have fallen in a heap again. In this Test, they did their job in the first innings, bowling New Zealand out for 132, only for England to make just 141.

England are currently without the injured Jofra Archer, and his absence is being felt

Ben Stokes tested New Zealand with short-pitched bowling, but luck was not on his side

Let’s not forget, either, that England have had no luck with injuries to their fast bowlers. No one who was there that day will forget Jofra Archer’s spell to Steve Smith on a flat Lord’s pitch three summers ago. That’s what they’re missing now – not to mention the absence of Mark Wood and Ollie Stone.

And I was happy for Ben Stokes to try a few bouncers as the ball went soft. With a bit more luck, he could have had Mitchell caught a couple of times. In Australia, when his body wasn’t up to it and the pitches were bowler-friendly, it didn’t seem like the right tactic. Yesterday, with few other options, it was fair enough.

McCullum will realise that this pitch has flattened out, and whatever England end up chasing may not be quite as impossible as it looks on paper.

But he’ll also have a clearer idea now exactly what ingredients are missing in his bid to get England back up the Test rankings. No one said change was going to happen overnight.

Stokes and Brendon McCullum will know it is going to take time to build a winning team

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