Staring at a huge defeat in the first test against England, Blackcaps all-rounder Michael Bracewell says the lessons of ‘Bazball’ are being learned by a flailing New Zealand side.
On Saturday, England took firm control of the series’ opening test and finished the day needing just five wickets to take an unassailable 1-0 lead before next week’s second encounter in Wellington.
In their second innings, England scored 374 runs in just 73.5 overs to set the Blackcaps 394 runs for victory, with more than two days to get them in.
But a new ball burst from Stuart Broad put paid to any thought of a New Zealand victory, destroying the Blackcaps’ top order with 4/21 in 10 overs, and taking the prized wickets of Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Tom Blundell.
At the other end, Ollie Robinson (1/34) removed Henry Nicholls, leaving it down to Bracewell and Daryl Mitchell to attempt to salvage a result on Sunday and Monday.
However, across day three, there were signs that the Blackcaps had begun to absorb the lessons of being put to the sword by England’s ultra-aggressive style of play.
Since former Blackcaps captain Brendon McCullum took charge in mid-2022, England has gone about rewriting how test cricket is played.
A record 506 runs in a day against Pakistan late last year was a statement to the world that England is a new side with McCullum and Ben Stokes at the helm, and that aggression was going to be the way forward.
On Saturday, though, the Blackcaps started to pull it back.
England’s second innings run rate (5.06 per over) was fractionally down on that of their first innings (5.57) with Bracewell saying the New Zealand attack was learning the lessons needed.
“It’s one of those ones, you know that they’re going to put your bad balls away,” Bracewell said.
“As a bowling unit, we’ve certainly improved throughout the test match and made those adjustments pretty well.
“[In] the second innings, we bowled a little bit better than [in] the first innings.
“I’m sure we’ll be better for it in the second test as well.”
Bracewell will return to the crease on Sunday afternoon and faces the unenviable task of trying to dig the Blackcaps out of a huge hole.
With half the side already out, New Zealand needs 331 more runs for victory, putting the majority of the weight on the shoulders of Bracewell and Mitchell.
But cricket’s a funny game, and Bracewell asserts the Blackcaps aren’t out of the fight just yet.
“It’s obviously challenging under the lights,” said Bracewell. “The ball was doing a little bit off the wicket there.
“But it’s one of those ones that you have to pick yourself up pretty quickly and go again tomorrow afternoon.
“We’re pretty positive that if we can get a couple of partnerships together tomorrow, we can make a fist of this total.”
Victory in the first test – no matter how unlikely – would be a new record run chase for the Blackcaps, going past the 324-run target achieved against Pakistan in 1994 in Christchurch.