They may have been embarrassingly bowled out for 58 in Auckland, but the Exchange layers still make England favourites to win the Second Test this week. Ralph Ellis says that's all wrong...
"I’m astonished this morning to find that, despite all that went wrong in Auckland, England are still the [2.42] favourites to win the Second Test when it starts in Christchurch on Thursday evening (our time)."
So March began with the sad news hat Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio, had passed away aged 80. A great man who brought untold good to poverty stricken parts of the world.
Out of respect to him I hope this doesn't sound too flippant, but the month is ending with the thought that it might be time to move Trevor Bayliss, who seems to have invented a wind-up England cricket team, to one side.
How else do you react to a Test outfit that has now lost nine out of ten away from home, has just been bowled out for 58, and then given the chance thanks to two days rain to rescue the game has somehow managed to fail at that too.
I'm astonished this morning to find that, despite all that went wrong in Auckland, England are still the [2.42] favourites to win the Second Test when it starts in Christchurch on Thursday evening (our time).
On what basis? In what other market would you back a side that had just been comprehensively thrashed, that had lost five of those nine away matches by an innings? Time to hit the lay button hard, I'd say.
Learned no lessons
Bayliss was brought in to the England set up by Andrew Strauss to revive the white-ball game and you can't argue that he's done a terrific job. But the Test team has been a whole different matter.
It's one thing taking the positive, attack at all times philosophy which Bayliss loves into the short forms of the game. It's breathed new life into the batting, playing without fear, to become explosive and capable of chasing huge targets.
But in red ball cricket it's a different matter, a bit of fear can actually be a good thing, yet this England team has learned no lessons about patience, game management or shot selection across a torrid winter.
Skipper Joe Root said he asked his players, after their first innings debacle in Auckland, to show how much it means to them to play for England and claimed: "I thought we got that."
Yet behind the 320 total in the second innings, which might seem respectable, was the reality that three key batsmen all got out to the last ball of a session. Root himself went at the end of day four, Moeen Ali before tea on day five, then Ben Stokes spoiled a patient 270 minute 66 by playing a rash shot on the final ball before dinner.
As Oscar Wilde might have said, to lose one batsman like that might be unlucky, to lose two even more unfortunate, but three seems like carelessness.
England could count themselves lucky that the Australian ball-tampering scandal has taken much attention away from their flop. But fail to save this Test series and they will rightly come under the spotlight again and Bayliss ought to be the man in the firing line.
With Alastair Cook out of touch, his opening partner Mark Stoneman continually getting out after decent starts, and Dawid Malan looking unconvincing, the batting line-up seems as brittle as ever and this is a decent New Zealand attack with variety from the two left-armers.
There's potential in the England team, no doubt. There are even a few world class players if they could only find their form and keep their focus. But to go back to the beginning, so much of it is what they promise but what they don't deliver - the wind-up cricket team.