Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Ajaz Patel peeks through the sliding door to see Michael Bracewell

It was an over that turned the series upside down. Chasing 279 at Lord’s, England were 136 for 4 when Kane Williamson bowled the ball to Ajaz Patel for his second over, which was expected to break the 67 partnership between Joe Root and Ben Stokes.

Stokes entered the grandstand with a six off Patel’s second ball of the match and Williamson was clearly reluctant to bring him back. But with Colin de Grandhomme off the field with an injury that would end his series, he had little choice: even with Stokes on strike, Patel was back in the firing line.

Stokes lines up Patel, tossing him to midwicket twice in the first four balls of the over. He was bowled almost from fifth, missing another slog-sweep for a ball that had passed over his off-stump and Tom Blundell’s gloves for four byes, but 2-0-22-0. With the figures of 1, Patel did not return to bowling again.

It was the first clear sign of England’s over-positive attitude with the bat. He had scored 2.83 per over in his run-chasing till the start of that over and then went on to 4.64, freed from Stokes’ decision to take his match down with the ball rolling in his arc.

“He watched that match with the left-arm spinner… It was a really important over,” Root said. “Colin’s injury meant he had to bring back his fast bowlers, tire them out.” Kyle Jamieson, who picked up a lot of slack, suffered a stress reaction in the next Test that ruled him out of the series.

Williamson lost faith in Patel. He took 10 in an innings and 14 wickets in the match in his most recent Test, and took 4 for 59 in New Zealand’s win at Edgbaston last summer, but met the requirements on two fine batting pitches at Trent Bridge and Headingley. was deemed surplus.

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His replacement, Michael Bracewell, has been dropped: he has taken five wickets in his two Tests, but conceded 5.67 runs per over. He also has the third highest economy rate by a New Zealand bowler anywhere in the series, by any bowler in any series in England and by any bowler in any series (minimum 40 overs bowled).

He has been a strangely negative selection: a 31-year-old all-rounder, selected primarily for his bowling despite a career record of 27 wickets at 47.51 in first-class cricket before this tour, which led to the 2019–20 season. Had only switched to offspin. , According to ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball figures, England have 17.7 per cent of their deliveries to attack, compared to 13.2 per cent of their overall figures throughout the series: Bracewell’s teammates call him ‘The Beast’, but he is not considered to be the beast. has been insulted. this tour.

On Sunday, he removed Jack Crawley with his seventh ball, slapping straight over extra cover, but by the end of the day he had resorted to firing the ball down the wicket from the leg side – and even then, Root did. He was continuously rotated for fours. Root and Ollie Pope both dismissed Daryl Mitchell at slips, but he hit one boundary per over.

Tom Blundell said in his defense, “We’re backing him every step of the way, but if you look at it, you’ve got two quality guys who play spin really well. If you look at the opportunities we’ve created.” Let’s see. Time with the Beast, if one of them goes hand in hand, it might be a different story.”

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Williamson was crying out for a bowler who could limit England’s score but didn’t get one. New Zealand packed their batting by picking Bracewell at number 8 and effectively fielded only three frontline bowlers, two of whom have played all three matches in this series and came straight from the IPL. His runs – 96 in four innings – have been easy, but nothing more.

And so Bracewell had to end the day with 1 for 70 in his 11 overs, on a pitch that was beginning to turn fast. Jack Leach, his opposite number, bowled over 70 overs, took the new ball in the second innings and took five wickets in each innings; Williamson posted a sweeper either side of square leg and saw Root nail the ball into the gap between them.

Meanwhile, Patel watched from the dressing room. He may have faced the same fate as Bracewell, but he was hardly given the chance. New Zealand will not play their next Test until the end of the T20 World Cup, when they will be 34 years old and have only a dozen caps to their name.

His career record has been compared favorably to Leach’s, a reflection of the fact that New Zealand pick him up only when conditions are favourable, but even on the dry, hard surface of Leeds, he has to carry drinks. He must wonder how the series would have ended if his final ball of the tour had kissed Stokes instead of bouncing over the off-stump.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

Nation World News Desk
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