England's luck caught down the legside

Since BazBall England had been winning a lot of games, and having many things go their way. Both of those stopped today.

There is luck in cricket, We hate to talk about. But the truth is it plays a part in anything. And one of the unluckiest dismissals is getting caught down the legside by the keeper. Even more so when your team is about to win a Test.

Especially as if you got any more on the ball, it could win you the match.

But first, let’s talk about England. BazBall started with Jack Leach concussing himself. If New Zealand rolled England at Lord’s, the entire narrative changes. "England try McCullum methods but knock themselves out".

But in that game, other things happened that went England’s way. Colin de Grandhomme tore his right plantar fascia during England's chase. At that point he had 3.5 overs and three runs from them. How much he might have helped them we won't know. But the ball was wobbling around for him, and he might have kept the pressure on. Instead England counter-attacked and won the match.

That injury was still being felt in the second match when Kyle Jamieson was injured. When he was hurt in the first innings it meant they didn't have one frontline bowler, and because de Grandhomme wasn't there, they were down their usual backup as well.

Maybe England win these anyway, but there is no doubt that these injuries played a part. And the worst injury is to a bowler mid-game. That means you are 20 or 25% down.

Move to this series and they are playing New Zealand again. And what do we see, New Zealand making it easy for England again in the first Test. Matt Henry was out for personal reasons, Kyle Jamieson crocked again and they chose to move on from Trent Boult (after he ghosted them). If you factor in de Grandhomme's last Test limping off the field at Lord's, New Zealand went in with their worst bowling attack of the modern era.

Think about all the teams that had to face peak Neil Wagner, wise Tim Southee and Boult, not to mention the last few years of Jamieson, and de Grandhomme wobbling them around as well. Compare that to Southee, 90% pace Wagner, Blair Tickner's straight fast mediums, Scott Kuggleijn's worse version of Ticker's fast mediums and Michael Bracewell's high-functioning part-time offspin.

In the second Test they sure that up by bringing in Matt Henry. Who is their best bowler in the game, until he has a back spasm with New Zealand having their best chance of winning in the series.

He only missed 12 overs. But when he went off, England were 138/5, and when he comes back it is 173/5.

A bit like the de Grandhomme injury, it doesn't feel massive. But it does feel like a bit of a pattern.

England cricket has gone through a lucky time in Tests since McCullum came on board. They were probably due some, because everything seemed to be going against them beforehand. This run is probably just a regression to the mean in terms of fortune.

There is no doubt that England has been magnificent in Tests since 01 June last year. They have been even better than they were bad before. A lot of their new method makes sense, attacking good length, taking down the old ball, simplifying their bowling, keeping pressure on and all the other little bits.

It's fun and clever cricket. Perhaps most importantly, it is playing to their strengths.

But you can't deny that things have gone massively their way since they started it.

Obviously the New Zealand bowling fitness was at the beginning, but something else was already happening that only became apparent later on. The Dukes balls played a massive part in how England went. If you plan to play as if the ball is white, it is a huge advantage that the read ones they were using went as soft as any ODI ball.

This is the biggest "what if" for me, if England had normal Dukes balls at the start of this journey and they were hooping around corners like the previous summer. They might have still gone for it, but it would have been even more madness. And the results would have been different (doesn’t mean they don’t win, but it may not have been as BazBally).

The next thing that went their way is that India came back for a split series, were cold, and England were red hot. You could throw in the decision not to play R Ashwin by India as well.

Then normality was finally restored when the Dukes balls were fixed and South Africa beat them in the first Test. But England got lucky twice in that series.

South Africa won the toss and Dean Elgar decided to bat first. Or looking at his lineup, they opted to be dismissed cheaply. Having an opposition that is that bad on one side of the ball and hasn't noticed is quite the gift.

Then they arrive in Pakistan which has prepared Bazball friendly wickets while also having no frontline bowlers. The PCB shouldn't have been penalised by the ICC for those wickets, but by their own bowlers.

You can certainly point to certain ways England made their own luck. And even if they got the rub, they changed their future by taking many chances. You have to respect all that.

And let us point out some things that went against England. It took them pretty much Jonny Bairstow’s entire career to unlock him, and then he injured himself on a golf course. Jofra Archer was supposed to be the lead of a platoon of pace, and they all followed him to the sick bay. There are probably more, but you tend to overlook them because they won. It is the ones on the other side that tend to stand out.

To paraphrase Don Bradman, after the match it is only the losing team that cares about the quality of umpiring.

But you would have to be pretty biased to think that England hasn't had a pretty fantastic run since marrying Baz and Ben.

And then in this match they decided on a fairly bizarre follow-on. One that only people like me who think the follow-on should almost never be used would have an issue with. Maybe it was BazBall gone wrong, or just a bunch of blokes at the end of series hoping for an extra day off.

But the Wellington pitch does what it always does, got flatter and flatter. Kane Williamson might still be batting if Harry Brook hadn't got one of the stupidest wickets ever. And that meant that England had what they want. A chase.

That is where all this started, right? When Leach concussed himself and de Grandhomme ripped up his foot. With a chase. This is the chasing team. We'll have a chase. This wasn't even a real challenge for England, more like a happy meal.

Williamson and Blundell had been batting with their dicks on this wicket. England's big chase energy would come out and end this series.

But it never really went that way. Crawley played all over a good one, Duckett and short wide off offstump seems like a sickness, Pope was never on it, Root burnt Brook, and Stoke's knee kept him ground-bound. It was only Root that was doing anything.

But that looked enough with Henry's back spasm and Wagner looking like a polite facsimile of a guy who once knew him. But Henry came back, and so did Wagner. And for the first time in his career, Wagner dismissed Root with the same ball he has taken 130 other Test batters with.

And suddenly, England looked like a normal cricket team for the first time since the South African bowlers had a day. Broad didn't even activate NightHawk mode.

Yet they still had two incredible moments of luck. The Foakes drop, if that counts as Bracewell might not have touched it. And New Zealand gifted them a run in an Under 12 moment by having three men behind square. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you saw an international team give a run because their captain can't count? And in a run chase. To save a series. Come on.

But when Foakes fell it was left to Anderson and Leach. The man who is always in the middle when England lose, and the guy who batted out their most shocking win and believed so much in Bazball he was willing to get CTE.

And at this point all they needed was one Anderson swipe and a couple of wide calls.

Jimmy got one away, and then Wagner bowled a wide candidate. In fact, had this been the first Test when Wagner looked washed, the umpire probably calls it.

This ball was both too short and too wide. It was terrible. Maybe 60% of the time it's called a wide. If your luck is in, you get that run, and you can'tl ose the Test and the series is won.

But finally fortune went against them, because next ball Wagner bowls short.

It is too straight. Anderson gets inside it. And there is some bat there.

Anderson only needs a little wood to collect the runs that England need.

Instead he collects only enough to make New Zealand happy.

Caught down the legside, a foot or so wider, they win the Test. They continue to nighthawk it up and chase World Cricket around.

Everything's been going England's way until they suddenly become only the second nation in history to lose a Test after enforcing the follow-on. And ofcourse because it is them, they do it by a run in a series they owned for 80% of the time.

If you're the batter, the leg side catch is the unluckiest dismissal in cricket. Ask Kane Williamson.

And because Anderson’s tickle didn't fall short, or go past Blundell, Bazball was paused and England finally stopped chasing.