IT IS far from easy to bat for a day and a half in the hope of snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat, so England’s achievement in saving the third Test in New Zealand, and the series, was no mean feat.
Clearly the team have a great sense of togetherness and that character was epitomised by Matt Prior, who is the heartbeat of the team in the field and took on that mantle with the bat, scoring a vital hundred.
Yet as good as the final-day performances from Prior, Ian Bell and Stuart Broad were, they should not mask the fact that this tour has turned out to be a very disappointing one for England.
New Zealand had the better of two of the three Tests and, had they held a catch or two yesterday in Auckland, would have been rewarded for their dominance with a surprise series victory.
England missed the experience of the retired Andrew Strauss and the injured Kevin Pietersen in the third match, where three of the top six batsmen – Nick Compton, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root – are relative newcomers.
Flat wickets did not offer much for the bowlers, and really did blunt what is supposed to be a top-class England attack.
But performances seemed a touch complacent, and you have to ask whether Alastair Cook’s men thought that all they had to do to win was turn up.
They did not seem to have much fizz about them, and when you start a series in second gear it can be very difficult to quickly change. New Zealand surprised them and stayed in control.
There is no doubt that England work hard and are committed, but perhaps they could have been more focused.
Mentally, England have to be harder in their approach, and they need to get Pietersen and Graeme Swann back and playing well for this summer’s Ashes.
Of the two, Pietersen is probably the more important, due to the lack of experienced batsmen. I’m sure that England will not make the same mistakes when they welcome New Zealand for the home series in May, and they simply cannot afford to when Australia arrive. If they go into those matches with the same complacent attitude they could start to go very wrong.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.