After a long winter, the England men’s team can finally go home. A frustrating draw in their second Test against New Zealand capped their overseas adventure 157 days after their trip to the Ashes. While the players will be happy not to have to stay in hotels anymore, those of us chasing them from the other side of the world can finally get a good night’s sleep.

As time went on, it became more and more obvious that England were likely to let us down, but we stayed on the sidelines. We weren’t too fond of cricket but we watched it anyway, partly because it was a cricket and partly because it was dark and cold and looked warmer on TV.

England have taken seven Tests, 10 ODIs and four T20s in their travels. Their fortunes in different formats contrasted sharply. The T20s have little to take away, but are still 1-4. They have continued to excel in 50 games, with seven wins in 10 and have won both series – the 4-1 win over Australia was particularly impressive. But I’m afraid these Tests were a disaster.

The most frustrating thing about the Ashes is that England have not been completely beaten in every game. More than once they put themselves in a strong position but failed to capitalize on those advantages. She won by 354 in the second innings in Adelaide, Australia, when she pitched 138. Going into the final day, they needed another 178 runs and had six wickets in hand before being knocked out to lose on 120 runs. In the final Test, at the WACA match in Perth, England finished the first day 305-4 thanks to Dawid Malan’s first century. On the second day, they scored only 403 points. How typical.

I think most people other than the ICC would agree that two sets of tests are at least one set. However, that was exactly the situation England faced in New Zealand, which is why their 58 absolute first-innings atrocity in Auckland dashed any hopes of a series win. England’s hopes of winning the series were dashed two hours into the first game. sigh.

The Christchurch tests produced at least some positive results. Joe Root’s side were two wickets away from a morale-boosting victory. Had it not been for the poor lighting, England might well have crossed the finish line. Stuart Broad came back with 6 for 54 in the first innings, and while serious batting problems persisted, Jonny Bairstow was at least in his fifth. The century of testing took hold. Broad’s flawless first ball in the second innings to fend off New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson was one of the best balls of the winter.

A word also for the wonderful hosts, the New Zealanders. It was a breath of fresh air to see the match played out with humility and respect after the uncomfortably high heat and bile of the Australians. The Black Caps are a shining example of how to play fairly and still win. The Australians say they need to be more like New Zealand in the wake of the ball tampering scandal. This seems like a good idea.

The way the New Zealand audience at the Barmy Army elicited huge cheers after their morning show in Jerusalem was brilliant, as was the way the Kiwi players clapped as Bairstow hit triple figures. Williams’ interview was not boastful after his side’s triumphant first Test. It’s a pleasure to watch. I hope that next time we meet, we will see at least three tests between the two countries.

So what has England learned from the long winter? They obviously have problems. Alastair Cook has been out of shape for so long that you have to wonder if this is the new normal for him. But with Mark Stoneman failing to impress as an opening partner, could England really consider letting go of a man with 12,000 Test runs? Not another opener can knock on the door to be chosen.

Meanwhile, the root-hitting debate raged at three. His silence is astonishing. I think a lot depends on James Vince’s future. Surely they couldn’t play such a player who couldn’t keep the ball out?

The situation of Moeen Ali is also controversial. Should Moeen return to the test site or let Jack Leach win the game? What the hell are we going to do if Anderson and Broad aren’t there to take all the wickets? The next time England take on Pakistan at Lord’s Stadium on May 24, they have a lot to think about.

Personally, it’s been four months of shattered sleep and dreams. A few months ago, the Test team left England with several question marks, none of which were answered. But at least there is a bright side. We can all look forward to seeing England again at civilian time of the day. Just wish they had better acting.

By x59ok

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