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New Zealand v England

Two nice beards & one angry Butcher: an alternative look at the first day’s play at Hamilton

James Wallace by James Wallace
@Jimbo_Cricket 5 minute read

James Wallace rounds up the moments you might’ve missed from the first day of the second Test, from the re-emergence of Chris Woakes’ abundant facial hair to Mark Butcher’s lesser-spotted snarl.


Has Joe Root been smoking astro-turf? England’s captain, not shy of a musical affectation, channelled David Bowie and went with a notably ‘freaky’ line up for the second Test in Hamilton. Fair’s fair, they gave the normcore approach to Test cricket a solitary crack in Mount Maunganui and they got pummelled, so why not run roughshod over logic and reason?

Joe Root endured a tough day in Hamilton

From Sgt Pepper’s to Station to Station to the invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’, history is littered with instances where this sort of maverick thinking has been seen retrospectively as a triumph for clarity of vision…oh he’s picked five seamers has he? No spinner for the first time in a Test since 2012 and given the keeper’s mitts to the bright white hope of the batting unit. Riiiight. Root went all ‘Isaac Singer’ with his bowling attack, concentrating solely on seam. No ‘Spinning Jacky’ to be seam – sorry seen. Then he chose to bowl himself before lunch on the first day. Seam’s a bit weird to me.

Different Woakes

You are a scientist. You’ve been tasked by a billionaire who’s listened to a podcast about genetic code and is also a ‘Tailenders’ fan to create the perfect husband/mate/son/son-in-law or colleague. After months of dedication and careful experimentation with levels of electrolytes and banana protein shakes you have nurtured a fleshy ‘Tamagotchi’ of your own creation to the point of completion. You step timidly towards the cryo-chamber. It’s all been leading to this.

Chris Woakes and his beard really are coming along nicely

The glass doors slide open and steam billows out, clouding your vision. From the mist a figure emerges. All creamy whites, sculpted torso and modest, winning smile. “Alright mate?” Chris Woakes offers you his hand and you take it in your own. His clasp is reassuringly firm yet gentle. You’ve done it. You collapse to your knees and weep. Woakes pats you on the back and looks not concerned, but content.

In sum: Chris Woakes was called up to play in this Test.

Battle of the beards

A facial-haired and freshly buffed Chris Woakes took 2-41 from his 14 overs and will be looking to build on this in order to bring his overseas average and potency both down and up respectively. The loss of the skittish Raval early on brought Kane Williamson to the crease. Williamson and Woakes going head to head and toe to toe. Beard to beard. Two fine figures of men with the facial furniture to boot bringing to mind Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in ‘Women in Love’. Grappling on a green tinged and slightly scruffy looking wicket rather than in front of a crackling log fire, writhing topless on an ornate rug like in D.H. Lawrence’s novel and my girlfriend’s imagination.

It didn’t really work out like that anyway, Woakes drew Williamson into a drive and Root snaffled a touch chance at slip. Next time lads eh?

Voices off. Knives out

Jonathan Agnew on TMS was struggling with his vocal cords and so Simon Mann was promoted to lead anchor to lessen the burden. There were mentions of Barry White’s gravelly tones but unfortunately the vibe was more Theresa May squawking her way through a Tory party conference than the ‘Walrus of Love’ crooning up an atmosphere of scented candles and bath salts, which would be preferable as the hours got smaller.

It takes a lot to ruffle Mark Butcher’s feathers

This prompted a switch over to the harshly lit death-star-studio over at Sky just in time to see Mark Butcher in mid flow. Butch was veering drastically away from his default setting of ‘laidback cool uncle’ and straying into apoplectic-dad-on-long-bank-holiday-journey-with-the-kids territory as he exasperatingly declared England’s selection as ‘nonsense’ . When you are prodding ‘Butch’ into vein-popping rant mode it might be time to take stock. Tom Latham’s compact and largely untroubled innings compounded this view. With the rains arriving at tea to halt New Zealand and you feel only spare England’s blushes for another day.

Still, we’ve always got Woakes. Did I mention him? Where there’s a Woakes there’s a way.

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