New Zealand v England: Jofra Archer gets a rude awakening as Kiwis strengthen red-ball credentials

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A shocking dropped catch from England’s Joe Denly was the highlight as unbeaten centuries from New Zealand stalwarts Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor helped the hosts clinch the two-match series by 1-0.

While the series might not have counted towards the ICC World Test Championship, it will have taught the two teams plenty over the course of clashes in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton.

Here, we look at the key takeaways from the two matches.

Archer gets a rude awakening

A chastening series for Archer.

A chastening series for Archer.

With his arms spread wide and a beaming smile on his face, Jofra Archer had already started his celebratory run when Williamson chipped an innocuous delivery in the air towards midwicket.

That smile soon turned into anguish when Archer realised that the dolly of a catch had slipped through the butter fingers of Denly. By that time, the England pacer had already reached the slips cordon in celebration before receiving the rude jolt of the chance going begging.

Had Denly held on to that sitter, Archer’s series average might have marginally improved. Instead, it read a shocking 104.5 by the time the draw was called with a disappointing strike-rate of 246 to boot.

Archer’s introduction to Test cricket in the summer against Australia had been a blockbuster one, with the fast bowler picking up 22 wickets in four Ashes clashes at an average of only 20.27. The verdict then was that the Barbados-born man would take Test cricket by storm in the years to come with his express pace and all-out attacking style.

However, not all cricket is played in England, as Archer has just learned the hard way. He returns home with just two wickets to show for his exertions in the series and plenty of harsh lessons about the subtleties and rigours required for varied pitch conditions.

Root revival

A much needed display from Root.

A much needed display from Root.

Following England’s innings defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui, the noose was starting to tighten around Joe Root’s captaincy.

While England’s Test inconsistencies are all too well known, it was starting to take its toll on top-order batsman as well with Root’s personal form taking a nosedive.

For the first time in his career, the right-hander’s batting average had dipped to below 40 as captain while his returns in 2019 had been shocking by his usually high standards. That England director Ashley Giles and vice-captain Ben Stokes were forced to publicly back the skipper before the second Test indicated that the pressure was approaching tipping point.

Therefore, Root’s double-hundred in Hamilton could not have come at a better time with the England man becoming the first overseas captain to do so on New Zealand soil. It was the first time he had struck a century in the first innings of a Test since August, 2017 and his first double ton as skipper of the unit.

For their sake, England will hope that the Seddon Park display from Root is a sign of more good things to come from their skipper in the future.

New Zealand are shaping up nicely as WTC contenders

No stopping the Kiwis for now.

No stopping the Kiwis for now.

The Kiwis will be secretly disappointed that the series was not part of the Test championship but nevertheless, it was another testament to how good a red-ball outfit they have developed into.

With the 1-0 victory, Williamson’s men have now won six out of their last seven Test series while the only draw came in an away tour of Sri Lanka.

Three of their batsmen are ranked in the top 10 of the ICC charts. Their pace attack of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner is as elite as they come.

In BJ Watling, they have arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman right now in Test cricket. Mitchell Santner is also slowly evolving into an excellent spin bowling all-rounder with the red-ball.

While India are the runaway leaders currently in the Test championship table, New Zealand, along with a resurgent Australia, are shaping up as the next best thing. Hence, their upcoming away Test battle with Australia and subsequent home series against India should serve up some potentially mouthwatering red-ball action.

The Kiwis will be quietly confident that they can topple both opponents as they seek to seal their place in 2021’s Lord’s final.

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