36th over: New Zealand 99-2 ( Williamson 39, Taylor 32) I was wondering whether Archer might get the ball from the other end, but Root has plumped for Stokes who toyed with Taylor yesterday evening. Again he seems to get Taylor in two minds, with the odd ball behaving unexpectedly off the pitch. Taylor pulls, inconclusively.
35th over: New Zealand 98-2 ( Williamson 39, Taylor 31) Sam Curran is handed the ball and scampers in from the Barmy Army end where a half-cut rendition of Jerusalem assaults the ears.
And out the players come – for perhaps the last session of the series.
An early joke, for our more mature readers, care of James Debens.
Someone’s stolen the Trotters’ Reliant Robin van and sold it to the US.
No, but Rodney’s bloody livid.
Another James, Butler this time, thinks Mike Atherton has forgotten the lesson of the near past.
It feels a bit ironic to now be saying that Sibley is ‘a bit limited’. Personally I would have given away my most treasured cricketing possession (a signed copy of ‘Angus Fraser’s Tour Diaries’) during the Ashes if we could have found a ‘limited’ player who could have ground out 20 between lunch and tea in the face of Pat Cummins.
Mark Butcher fancies Moeen Ali to rejoin England for the South Africa tour. I do hope so. Then they move on to Jofra Archer – Atherton says he’s an absolute diamond, but has realised how difficult Test cricket is away from England and the Dukes ball. Says we need to dampen expectation a little, but he’s a wonderful player.
An interesting tale here:
My son has a new joke book. This is his favourite.
Bill: I’m letting my pet pig sleep on my bed.
Jenny: What about the smell?
Bill: He’ll just have to get used to it.
In the Sky studio they’re having a selection chat for the South Africa series.
Mike Atherton think Dom Sibley might not be right, for now, and looks a bit limited. He suggests they might shove Denly up to open and thinks Ollie Pope looks the best English batsman since Joe Root.
Butcher would keep Sibley for the tour to South Africa and see what happens.
The England touring staff, according to Atherton, are both quite optimistic about Sibley and Crawley because of the way they are shaping up in practice.
It’s not raining by the way, looks quite nice actually.
So, here we are, two mince pies into December, with just one day left of the first tour of the new regime. Downpours are due, probably by lunch, so any hopes of England levelling the series, or New Zealand pulling another rabbit out of the hat, seem remote.
It’s all about the little presents left unobtrusively at the foot of the tree. In foil, England’s longest Test innings for four years. With raffia, Ollie Pope’s debut fifty and Tom Latham’s century. Gift-boxed, Joe Root’s double ton. And finally, busting out of a too-small envelope, Neil Wagner’s five wickets.
On Saturday New Zealand fly to Australia, where they need to hit the ground running. The first of the three Test series starts at Perth, before moving on to Melbourne on Boxing Day and Sydney at New Year. Their last Test win in Australia was in 2011 , but you have to travel back to the era of big hair and pixie boots to unearth their last series win, when Richard Hadless was in charge way back 1985-86.
England have a couple of warm-up games before the first Test against South Africa which starts at Centurion on Boxing day. Three more Tests, three ODIs and three T20s follow.
But we’ve still got today. Something to play for, even if it is Williamson and Taylor knocking themselves into form before the rain . Play is due to start at 10.30am NZST or 9.30pm GMT. See you soon!