Notes on the second Test so far

Santner, Pope and Broad, plus baseball I suppose

The new series of Double Century has now started. Please have a listen.

These are a few unconnected notes from the first couple of days of this Test.

Santner Vs Patel

So on day one, Ajaz Patel took his first wicket with a shortish ball. And I'm hanging a lampshade on this because I'll be mentioning it twice. But Patel took another wicket later on, and why this matters is simply because Mitchell Santner doesn't take first-innings wickets. I mean, he averages in the 40s, so he doesn't take many at all.

And he's bowled on a lot of flat NZ wickets that spin little. But he also bowled three times in Asia in these numbers. Santner averages around the same as Roston Chase and Joe Root, and they can both bat a lot more. He averages 25 when batting, it's handy, but that's about it. And the batting matters, as Santner's average in first class cricket with the red ball is closer to 50 than 40.

You get why New Zealand keep pushing Santner. He's a smart, good all-round cricketer. And they kind of feel he will eventually work out red-ball cricket. I get that. But Patel is a vastly superior bowler, and it's not even close. At 29, you wonder if Santner will ever be a good enough Test spinner, but you wouldn't think so at the moment.

He's the kind of smart cricketer I usually think finds a way. But he may not actually find he gets that many more chances.

Ollie Pope and spin

One of Patel's wickets yesterday was Ollie Pope with the aforementioned short ugly one.

When Ollie Pope was smashing the South Africans everywhere and had the greatest County batting average of all time, talkSPORT gave me the job as an analyst to work him out. I didn't have that much to go on, but from looking at his first class record, I could see he was a very slow scorer against spin. He didn't go out to it, but really struggled to score from it. When you see a non-Asian batter with that in his record, and you know that he's about to face better spinners more often and on friendlier surfaces, it was clearly something to be concerned with.

I also think you can hang the ball a little wide to him with a packed offside field, and he'll search for the cover drive in a risky manner.

Anyway, I bring this up because Pope currently averages 37.75 against pace bowling, and 23.18 against spin.

And if you think - as I did - that this was because he was horrible in Asia. Sure, he averaged 17 there against spin. But, he averages 17 against spin in the UK as well.

He should improve against the turning ball by playing it so much more. Well, he'll have to, or he'll be out of a job. But it's clearly becoming more of an issue for him as his career continues. And with the potential of Ashwin/Jajeda this summer, it might bring his spot into jeopardy.

Fast bowling and baseball

Stuart Broad is bowling faster than usual, according to Sky. I didn't quite get the numbers, but I got the gist. And that's not normal; bowlers like Broad usually slow down in their 30s. To be quicker over a long period - not just one-off fast balls - is really odd. When you factor in James Anderson looking like he's going to be bowling into his 40s, it suggests that England are onto something with helping ageing bowlers.

This is the holy grail because finding a great bowler is one thing, but having them for 15 years is something entirely different. We've had freaks before like Courtney Walsh, Glenn McGrath and Richard Hadlee, who can bowl forever due to slowing down and injury-proof bodies.  But the ability for a cricket team to give themselves a few extra years per bowler - crucially, without them having to slow down - is really quite special.

And this good just be a fluke, Broad finding speed while Anderson keeps bowling with his nip. But here is the thing, we also know that some baseball pitchers like Jacob deGrom have learnt how to be faster in their 30s, going against all baseball patterns.

And we know England have been studying baseball pitchers because of their platoon plans with Wood and Stone. In fact, Wood is playing back-to-back Tests here, and his pace is down. Simon Doull showed how he was bowling without the braced front leg. And that might be it, or it could be that he can't always maintain maximum pace, which makes a lot of sense.

Pitching and bowling are obviously very different. But in both sports we're really looking at keeping the pace on the ball as long as possible. Because any movement at speed is lethal. Most faster bowlers only have shorter windows you can stay quick; if England has worked out how to unlock bowlers not losing their speed (Anderson) or even gaining it (Broad) that could be an incredible advantage.