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New Zealand v England 2022/23

Ollie Robinson’s emergence is a total gamechanger for England in overseas Tests

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

Forget the infamous run of one win in seventeen, there was one much longer standing trend in English Test cricket that predated not only Brendon McCullum’s time as England coach but Chris Silverwood’s too.

On flat pitches overseas, England’s record over the past decade or so has been terrible.

England haven’t won a Test, let alone a series, in New Zealand for 15 years. They haven’t won a Test in Australia since 2010/11, they’ve lost their last two series in the Caribbean and never won a Test in the UAE while it was Pakistan’s temporary home.


The reversal in form over the course of the 2022 summer under McCullum and Stokes was thrilling, but in the grand scheme of things, the previous summer – where England won just one Test match – was more of an aberration than their near-clean sweep in 2022. Even in the bad times, England not winning at home has been rare in recent past.

It’s a very different story overseas, which was part of what made the 3-0 win in Pakistan before Christmas so special. They achieved something that recent England teams haven’t threatened accomplishing. England’s other away victories in recent times have been in relatively bowler-friendly conditions, either on the turning tracks of Sri Lanka or the quicker, fiery decks of South Africa.

England’s approach in Pakistan was revolutionary, scoring at breakneck speed to insert enough time in the game to take 20 wickets. Central in their pursuit of 20 wickets was Ollie Robinson, who emerged as the perfect foil to James Anderson as another English seamer without express pace, skilful enough to prise out the best players on flat wickets.

Robinson was expertly managed by Stokes, averaging fewer than 13 overs per innings. Eight of his nine wickets in the series were top seven batters; he dismissed both of Pakistan’s leading run-scorers in the series – Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel – on multiple occasions.

The ongoing Test at Mount Maunganui makes for an interesting contrast to England’s previous outing on this ground. On a similar surface – albeit in a day Test – in 2019/20, England slowly compiled 375 in the first innings of the Silverwood era. Rory Burns and Dom Sibley opened the batting together for the first time in Test cricket and, in a sign of things to come, put on 52 for the first wicket from 21.4 overs.

In 2022/23, England made the second-earliest first-innings declaration in the game’s history. Stokes called an end to their innings with England on 325-9 to make the most of the more bowler-friendly conditions under lights. While the method was vastly different to 2019/20, the end result was broadly similar – a below-par total on a flat deck.

But with the ball, however, it was a completely different story. In 2019/20, England toiled away for 201 overs as New Zealand piled on 615 to set up an innings win. There was distinct lack of penetration. Jofra Archer, the only bowler capable of regularly touching 90mph, was bowled into the ground by his captain Joe Root, sending down a barely believable 42 overs.

As England made early inroads under lights on the opening evening of the 2022/23 Test match, New Zealand, at various points, threatened to turn a scratchy start into not just a competitive total, but a dominant one. There were passages of play reminiscent of the 2019/20 Test; Stuart Broad and Jack Leach were similarly unthreatening with the old ball as they were three and half years ago.

New Zealand began day two with a sense of relative calm as Neil Wagner took the attack to Broad. Broad eventually claimed revenge, sending Wagner back after he and Conway had quickly compiled 45 early runs. Conditions were markedly different to the previous evening as Daryl Mitchell, a persistent thorn in England’s side in the 2022 series, strolled to the crease.

Robinson made an instant impact, taking Mitchell’s wicket with his third ball of the day. Mitchell attempted to let through a ball that moved sharply back into him. He was trapped in front for nought. When the pitch was benign and the ball, for other bowlers at least, not doing much, Robinson claimed a vital breakthrough.

Similarly, later in the day, Robinson claimed the wicket off Scott Kuggeleijn just as his partnership with Tom Blundell was veering from irritating to dangerous; he found just enough movement with the old ball to beat Kuggeleijn’s inside edge.

He finished with a four-for, the seventh time he has done so in his first fifteen Test matches. Robinson’s England record is genuinely outstanding. At the time of writing he averages less than 20 with the ball, having already toured Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand. Over the last 15 years, Robinson is one of three England seamers (with a minimum of 10 bowling innings) to average under 30 in away Tests; he is the only one to average less than 23.

England’s game-changing antics with the bat justifiably creates the biggest buzz, but in terms of tangible numbers-based improvement, Robinson’s emergence as a force in all conditions has been just as crucial in turning around England’s dismal overseas record.

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