Beating England

Why beating England matters at first, but not forever

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New Zealand just rested a bunch of players for a Test. And not just any Test, a match versus England. That might seem like common sense to you, with these Tests not being part of the WTC and New Zealand about to be in the final.

But you need to know some more; New Zealand once came to England to prove that they deserved full-length Test matches, not the three-day affairs that England gave them as a token. New Zealand had to fight to play full Tests, and this while Australia ignored them. And yet here they are, playing a five day Test, in England, and resting cricketers because they're about to play in the first-ever Test match final.

It's quite the journey they have been on.

You may not like that they have rested or that these Tests are not part of the WTC. It may upset you that New Zealand qualified over teams who played far bigger series and away from home more often. And Tests are still a mess of bilateral series instead of being organised as a proper league and share the money out with all the nations.

None of that is not true.

But New Zealand - who took 39 years to win a Test series - just rested players against England to prepare for a final versus India. A team that was ignored by Australia a lot and didn't play England much.

Test cricket is a colossal mess that we made worse by not having a proper two-tier system and the arbitrary nature of how we promote teams based on political concerns or randomly. It's still at risk from the boards who protect it as they pivot to other forms or even a rebel league who could come in now and steal many of the best players.

Often I'm asked about the future of Tests, and are they dying - probably because of that movie I made. But I think Tests have never been in a better state, and also never been more vulnerable. Which I know seems like two diametrically opposed views. But we've never had more teams, Women's Tests look finally on the rise again, we can follow multiple games on the same day, and it's probable that there are more Test fans than at any point in history. And it's also possible that it's only a couple of teams really playing it in the future.

Cricket is opening up to the market. And ultimately the fans will decide what they want to watch. They keep watching it, not always in massive numbers, but far better than many sports around the world. So far, it's the boards letting down the fans by not maximising Tests' revenue and leaving it open to problems.

And so you end up with a bizarre situation like today where New Zealand are facing the country they were desperate to make their name against, but because of a fixture anomaly, they can take a game off. I mean, they might still win, and I hope they do because it's always great when someone beats England.

And I have been thinking about beating England a lot of recent times. Because that is what my new series of Double Century is all about. More specifically, the first major win of each nation over England. So apologies to Afghanistan, but they didn't make it.

Each week I'm looking at a different nation's journey to beating England. There are some spectacular stories in it. Sometimes beating England means everything, and other times it's just a sign a team has arrived. But it's such a fascinating way to look at cricket teams.

Beating England is a pivotal moment for most teams.

The stories are great, random and just as strange as you'd hope cricket history would be. Australia's involves racism at the team, India's has a moment where a player messes with Alan Knott's guard, Bangladesh's a riot and New Zealand, well, a lot of blokes trying real hard.

I figured outside a few hardcore English fans; everyone would love to hear stories of teams getting one up on the old country.

For the more modern teams, we have interviews with some of the players from the game. The Irish episode is basically an oral history of the game where Kevin O'Brien went nuts.

So episode one is Australia, and we look at three tours, but one bowler, who helped change everything.

Basically, the entire series is about why beating England matters, even if New Zealand are showing why it matters less as you develop.