There’s certainly no disgrace in drawing a series with a strong New Zealand side but there are worrying signs for England ahead of an Ashes summer. The hosts named unchanged XIs throughout but how did they cope against the impressive Kiwis?
A first test hundred will have given the Yorkshire left hander huge confidence and cemented his Ashes berth. However, dismissals behind the wicket in three of his four knocks mean he has to work on his off stump line.
Dropping Cook as ODI captain caused huge controversy ahead of the World Cup but has the decision salvaged his test career? The skipper is less prone to prodding outside that off stump and his return to form is England’s biggest positive from this series.
From the positives we come to the real areas of concern: Ballance made just 36 runs in four innings and was bowled three times – a real worry for a number three. The Yorkshireman looked particularly vulnerable to the left arm of Trent Boult and that’s not good news with Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson on the way.
If your number four is out of form then the controversy over Kevin Pietersen just won’t die down. Since scoring a big hundred against the West Indies, Bell has notched just 55 runs in eight knocks at an average of just under seven and like Ballance, his Ashes place could be under threat if he doesn’t find form quickly.
Despite a disappointing second test, Root provided another positive for English supporters. The Vice Captain scored 98 and 84 at Headingley and proved once again that he can be a useful partnership breaker with the ball in his hand.
The second test proved that Stokes is not the new Ian Botham and it’s probably time we accepted that there will never be another. However, that rapid century in the first test – the fastest at Lord’s – and some hostile bowling in New Zealand’s second innings suggest that the Durham man can emulate the success of Andrew Flintoff and nail down the all rounder’s slot for many years.
England’s wicket keeper made two half centuries in the series and although he still needs to improve behind the stumps, there is no real threat to his place right now. The Aussies will consider him vulnerable outside the off stick and he will need to continue to bat positively, even if charged with rescuing an innings.
As Nasser Hussain says, it’s hard to see why Moeen is in the side if he is going to bat at number eight. He is not a frontline spinner and not a huge improvement on Joe Root when it comes to back up bowling.
The Worcester man was possibly England’s biggest disappointment and finds himself under serious threat from Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid.
After a poor 12 months with the bat since being struck in the face against India, Broad’s runs at Headingley were a welcome sight. His bowling remains unconvincing even though he’s homing in on 300 test wickets and the Australians can add to an expensive set of figures from the New Zealand series.
It seems that England have finally unearthed a bowler who might just match the Aussies for pace and hostility. Wood has played just two tests and is very much a work in progress but some genuinely quick spells with the ball leaves another positive ahead of the Ashes.
Jimmy wasn’t quite at his best against New Zealand but remains England’s most talented bowler. Having gone past 400 test wickets, the Lancashire seamer may need conditions to be in his favour but he is our biggest threat against the Aussie top order.
So the mid-term report ends with a clear ‘must do better’ message. New Zealand are stronger but Australia will be much, much harder to beat and there needs to be a serious improvement ahead of the first test starting in Cardiff on July 8th.