When the darkness came, we accepted it gratefully, knowing that in its embrace lay a glimmer of hope. Hope that we might avoid defeat for a second test in a row, and thereby retain some shred of dignity and carry that into the winter.
The forecast is pretty average for today, though the forecasters have been wrong before, but there’s a fair chance that New Zealand might be able to fumble their way through however many balls we get to the end of play, and a 1-0 test series loss.
How are we supposed to feel about this? All blogwarring aside, a better team than ours, with far more talented players, came to our country and beat us in a test series. We can complain about our bowling and certain batsmen, but it was those simple facts that decided the series.
The beauty of cricket is that such is the ability of one player to impose their will upon the game that there was always a sliver of hope that we might see a different result. When Ryder hit his double century we were part way there, waiting only for a bowler to answer the call and join him in his reverie.
That none did is hardly surprising. Chris Martin became the all-time fourth-equal highest wicket taker for New Zealand this series, with only unequivocal talents Chris Cairns, Daniel Vettori and Richard Hadlee ahead of him. None of whom he’s likely to overtake.
Martin represents what we have to rely on most of the time in New Zealand: good players who want so badly to be great that they can occasionally will themselves to greatness. A look down that list is littered with examples of the provincial toiler, who was lucky enough to be born in New Zealand and therefore play test cricket, and every so often was worthy of the honour.
Paul Wiseman and his average of nearly 50. Dipak Patel (who I loved) and his of 42. The pre-Vettori era was a dark one for the art of spin in this country. Danny Morrison, the player Martin sits alongside, is perhaps the supreme example of sheer determination trumping obvious physical limitations.
Every so often the ratio of genuine talents to these manful strugglers in our team will rise to 6:5 or better, and it’s such times when we can really prosper. In this current side it sits at 4:7 by my reckoning, and while the bowling stocks have only one world-class entrant (and one who tends to be far more successful on some surfaces than others) we can’t expect those four to carry the weight of the seven journeymen to test victories very often. Unless we’re playing sides of a similar DNA, then all bets are off.
If this sounds depressed in tone, I don’t feel down. Another international season has gone, and it provided pretty good entertainment, though no victories. But when you’re played your heart out and lost to a better team there’s not much to complain about. It’s not like we have stacks of fast bowlers out there begging to be picked.
If we could somehow dredge up a couple, or Southee (who unlike the 30 Club members Martin, Mills and O’Brien, still has some upside to be determined) can develop a little more control and discipline and make that leap, then we’d have a pretty decent test side. In the meantime, there will be sessions of hope, and more of despair. Until the next special talent arrives, that’s our lot. As always with test match cricket, it’s a waiting game.