The two things England have most enjoyed in this Test match so far have been with neither bat or ball: Ed Sheeran popped into the dressing room while in Auckland for three gigs this weekend, and rain wiped out most of the second day with more forecast for the next two. Stuart Broad’s 400th wicket aside, there is not much else they can take from it.
Sheeran, a cricket fan who is friends with Shane Warne, received a bat from Mark Wood and a signed shirt. “A few of the lads chatted to him for a while, it was nice especially after a couple of average days to meet someone of his calibre,” James Anderson said. “It was nice of him to come in, there are a lot of big fans in there.”
Back on the field there was precious little to savour in the 23.1 overs possible. They bowled tightly but without much penetration which is not a new story. Anderson managed to extract Kane Williamson for 102, but New Zealand’s lead swelled to 171.
Having been bowled out for 58, the game is so far advanced that the weather is not yet a problem for the home side, but the forecast is poor for the weekend. From such depths England will take any help they can, although Anderson insisted they could yet haul themselves out of the mire.
“We have to keep believing we can save it because if we don’t have belief there’s no point turning up and putting in the hard yards and bowling the overs in the middle,” he said. “We’ve got to believe that we can get something out of this game.”
Twenty-four hours after registering their sixth-lowest total in Test history and threatening the lowest by anyone – 26 – there was a sense of England still trying to work out how it happened. The same could be said for New Zealand.
When asked his thoughts on batting before lunch on the first day, Anderson said: “It was a big chance for my maiden hundred.” Gallows humour is not a bad idea.
“I can’t remember experiencing an hour like that before,” he added. “Certainly at the start of the game. It’s just one of those things, when the stars align, you’re not on form and facing two world-class bowlers it’s going to happen. We’ve got to try and work very hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
There was still a sense of disbelief in Williamson’s voice: “It was a bit of a perfect storm, really. England have a very long batting line-up. Even when you do fire you expect a partnership or two. It was doing just enough and that just enough was on our side. Hard to beat it from our perspective with ball in hand.”
On the first day England coach Trevor Bayliss lamented technical failings from batsmen with a reluctance to get on the front foot to a slightly moving ball and while the major post-mortem will wait until after the match, Anderson said the onus was on the batsmen to work out what had gone wrong.
“I’m sure the batsmen are working hard with the coaches to figure out what went wrong with them and counter that during the second innings and hopefully bat much better. I think it’s something after the game we’ll really have a chat about it but at the minute you’ve really got to do what you can do to influence this game.”
More rain would be music to England’s ears. Otherwise, they might have time to see one of Ed Sheeran’s concerts in person.