• New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 5th day

Cook believes attack 'back to their best'

Andrew McGlashan
March 18, 2013
Alastair Cook tried to the take the positives from a rain-affected Test © AFP

Whenever England travel to the subcontinent, or know they will encounter a flat pitch, they talk about 'finding a way' to take 20 wickets. Perhaps, even if only subconsciously, they did not expect to have to use such a philosophy on this tour of New Zealand but they would do well to delve back into their memory banks ahead of the final Test in Auckland.

Whether you want to term it presumption or not, it was expected that England's bowling attack, especially the quicks, would dominate this series. That was not being arrogant or disrespectful, it was a judgement based on form and rankings. The fact they have not managed to blow New Zealand away - far from it in Dunedin - is credit to the home side.

There was a glimpse in the first-innings in Wellington of when this England attack, missing Graeme Swann from their first-choice combination, performs at its optimum; three high-class quick bowlers relentlessly running in, with the spinner maintaining the pressure at the other end. Would England have been closer to victory with Swann? Most likely, but Monty Panesar, with a little more luck and maybe a tad more patience, could have had more than his one wicket.

It is vital to make use of the new ball, which Stuart Broad did superbly late in New Zealand's first innings, and England also pride themselves on making the old ball reverse. There was a spell of that, too, from James Anderson during a classy burst to Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling when he had the ball under his complete control.

"I think it was outstanding in that first innings to bowl New Zealand out for 250. On that wicket, that was a great effort," Alastair Cook said. "The guys were back to their best, putting New Zealand under a lot of pressure and not letting them get away from us.

"That is one of our hallmarks. Although Jimmy didn't get the wickets, he bowled 30 overs into that wind, pretty much - an outstanding effort. It was great to see Broady back in the wickets, and bowling as well as I think he has done."

Still, it has not been easy for the bowlers and is unlikely to become any more so in the final Test. Lessons learned from the subcontinent travels of recent years - and how they dominated in Australia during 2010-11 - will need to be remembered for them to take 20 wickets at Eden Park. They are also in a similar position to New Zealand last week, coming off the back for a lengthy spell in the field, although the final-day washout will have allowed them to begin their recovery.

"Clearly, I don't think we really wanted to enforce the follow-on, when you've bowled 90 overs on a good wicket and put the effort in - with four bowlers - that the lads had," Cook said. "But the circumstance with the weather - we knew it was pretty accurate, when it's so close - we thought we'd have 80 overs to bowl them out.

"That was a chance to win the game, and our only chance really. We asked a lot of the bowlers to do that, and unfortunately didn't quite create enough chances."

The bowler who appeared to feel the workload most was Anderson who needed some treatment for a stiff back during the second innings although it did not prevent him of running in. Despite being the senior bowler, Anderson did most of work into the wind and Cook was keen to emphasise the commitment.

"They're just niggles, a bit of wear and tear from bowling 30 overs - and as he keeps reminding me, only seven with the wind," he said. "Stuff like that goes unnoticed. When you're watching on TV, you don't feel how strong the wind is. But you only have to stand at slip, thinking he's got to run into that - and he never really complained, not on the pitch anyway."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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