The future is promising

The triumphant England team.-AP

Kiwi debutant Tim Southee and England’s Stuart Broad are two young quick bowlers, with different, widely contrasting skills, who can bat quite a bit. Can you ask for anything more, writes Ted Corbett.

Sometimes the certainty that you have had a glimpse of greatness is so strong that you just have to tell the rest of the world about it all.

Especially when it happens twice in a twinkle of an eye. Two young quick bowlers, with different, widely contrasting skills, who can bat quite a bit. Can you ask for anything more?

First there is Stuart Broad, trotting from third man — blond hair flopping — to grab the ball of the umpire or his captain Michael Vaughan, bowling a line down the off-stump that never varies. I guess he was brought up listening to the Boycott principle of the “corridor of uncertainty” and still remembers it whenever he gets near a bowling crease.

For all he has a baby face, for all he is only 21 and playing only his third Test, you can sense the determination, the power and the aggression streaming out of every pore. He begins as if he is doing an audition to impress a nasty, vindictive coach and finishes each spell as if his only ambition is to put the name of one Indian batsman out of his mind.

“Six sixes in an over — I’ll show him,” his body language says as he drops yet another ball into the planet of where next and gives one of those shy grins as the batsman gropes towards the ball.

But there is a finer prospect than Broad. Tim Southee is 19, lucky enough to have one of those bodies so perfectly proportioned that no one is sure whether he is tall and wiry or medium height and stocky and an action that will see out the passage of time even if he plays until he is 40.

That compact action produces balls at around 85 miles an hour, straight as a dye; he also knows the value of the delivery on off-stump or just outside. So far his career consists of a dozen first class games and stardom in the Under-19 World Cup but his wisdom seems infinitely deep.

He made his way into the New Zealand Test side because Kyle Mills was injured and it was all the TV commentators, a sentimental lot, could do to stave off a desire to “Ah, isn’t he nice — what a good baby!”

He soon put a stop to all sentimentality by taking five wickets and then in a final fling hitting the ball to the same spot with such regularity that Vaughan must have been tempted to ask the umpires if he could have some sort of dispensation to place a fielder or two out there.

Not that it would have done England any good because that same spot was beyond the terraces as he smote nine sixes in 77 off 40 balls. If Ryan Sidebottom had not come along, and, with a beautiful piece of bowling, removed the batsman at the other end, I guess Southee might have broken Viv Richards’ record of a 56-ball century.

I did mention it was his first Test, didn’t I?

There was a lot of talk about Southee being too young to have fear and just a terrific eye and one radio man kept saying, “This is totally unorthodox, of course,” in the tone usually adopted by the Grand Inquisition shortly before they sent you off to a session on the rack.

That misses the essential point. Cricket is once again in good hands, young hands at that, if you count in comparative newcomers like the two wicket-keepers Tim Ambrose and Brendon McCullum and the comparatively experienced Sidebottom and Monty Panesar.

Of course, events on the sub-continent mean that New Zealand will be weakened for the spring tour of England but I insist that in Australia, in South Africa, in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka the game is thriving and I wish that more TV men in particular would stop pretending the end of the world is nigh.

That third Test in Napier, with the rubber still undecided, showed what a marvellous game still brings us pleasure.

Vaughan won the toss and grinned too broadly for his own good. You could see him thinking “win the toss on this gorgeous pitch win the match.”

It was one of the most beautiful pitches I have ever seen and as Southee proved with his late hitting bout it lasted five days in perfect condition. Only a remarkable bowler could take wickets on that lovely strip — yet Southee, with five, Sidebottom, with seven in the first innings and a record 24 in the series, and Broad, with economy and stamina —managed so that England collapsed and then recovered and New Zealand lost almost a whole innings between lunch and tea. In a sense Vaughan was right.

Winning the toss was a substantial factor in the result but I am sorry to say they have major problems as they head all too rapidly towards the next Ashes series.

Vaughan is a major worry. He is not making runs and that is not a happy turn of events as he continues to open the innings while protesting in private that he would rather be at No. 3.

(I find it odd that he is generally thought to be responsible for the ruthless dropping of his Yorkshire team-mate Matthew Hoggard yet apparently allowed himself to be talked into opening, a job he does not want. Is he the new Jardine or a pussy cat? Perhaps he is both.)

Despite his big century Andrew Strauss looks vulnerable and there is an argument about the most reasonable way to bring Andrew Flintoff back for what ought to be a walk-over in three Tests against New Zealand in England shortly.

Some blame the split captaincy between the shorter forms of the game under Paul Collingwood and the Vaughan-led Test team.

If victory in the home series is as easy as seems likely I trust there will be no complacency because three flying hours away from New Zealand a side of huge power can still turn on performances to be envied even though they have lost their main attacking bowlers Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

You may think I hark back to the Ashes too often but it is the single most important competition we know in this country.

Even if Vaughan regains his scoring touch, even if Flintoff is restored to the all-rounder of impressive strength that can shake any opponent, even if young Broad continues to develop at the speed of his own bowling, the Aussies will still be a formidable team.

The fact that England have beaten a pretty ordinary flock of Kiwis after going one down shows they can fight, that they have the skill and the promise. But the squad went to the land of the world’s most famous flightless bird expecting a 3-0 success and they must not ignore how close they came to defeat.

Who cares really? With two promising young fast bowlers promising a bright future we neutrals have so much to enjoy in tomorrow’s cricketing world.

THE SCORES

Third Test, New Zealand v England, Napier, March 22-26. England won by 121 runs.

England — 1st innings: A. Cook b Martin 2; M. Vaughan lbw b Southee 2; A. Strauss c How b Southee 0; K. Pietersen c How b Southee 129; I. Bell c & b Elliott 9; P. Collingwood c Elliott b Patel 30; T. Ambrose c Taylor b Patel 11; S. Broad c McCullum b Southee 42; R. Sidebottom c Bell b Southee 14; M. Panesar b Martin 1; J. Anderson (not out) 0; Extras (lb-9, w-3, nb-1) 13. Total: 253.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-4, 3-4, 4-36, 5-125, 6-147, 7-208, 8-240, 9-253.

New Zealand bowling: Martin 26-6-74-2; Southee 23.1-8-55-5; Elliott 10-2-27-1; Vettori 19-6-51-0; Patel 18-3-37-2.

New Zealand — 1st innings: J. How c Strauss b Sidebottom 44; M. Bell lbw b Sidebottom 0; S. Fleming c Collingwood b Sidebottom 59; M. Sinclair c Broad b Sidebottom 7; L. Taylor c Ambrose b Broad 2; G. Elliott c Ambrose b Sidebottom 6; B. McCullum b Sidebottom 9; D. Vettori c Cook b Sidebottom 14; T. Southee c Pietersen b Broad 5; J. Patel c Panesar b Broad 4; C. Martin (not out) 4; Extras (lb-13, w-1) 14. Total: 168.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-103, 3-116, 4-119, 5-119, 6-137, 7-138, 8-152, 9-164.

England bowling: Sidebottom 21.4-6-47-7; Anderson 7-1-54-0; Broad 17-3-54-3; Panesar 1-1-0-0; Collingwood 2-2-0-0.

England — 2nd innings: A. Cook c McCullum b Patel 37; M. Vaughan c McCullum b Martin 4; A. Strauss c Bell b Patel 177; K. Pietersen c Taylor b Vettori 34; I. Bell c Sinclair b Vettori 110; P. Collingwood c & b Vettori 22; T. Ambrose c & b Vettori 31; S. Broad (not out) 31; R. Sidebottom (not out) 12; Extras (lb-3, w-1, nb-5) 9. Total (for seven wkts., decl) 467.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-77, 3-140, 4-327, 5-361, 6-424, 7-425.

New Zealand bowling: Martin 18-2-60-1; Southee 24-5-84-0; Elliott 14-1-58-0; Patel 30.5-4-104-2; Vettori 45-6-158-4.

New Zealand — 2nd innings: J. How lbw b Panesar 11; M. Bell c Broad b Panesar 69; S. Fleming c Ambrose b Panesar 66; M. Sinclair c Ambrose b Broad 6; L. Taylor c Collingwood b Panesar 74; G. Elliott c Bell b Broad 4; B. McCullum b Panesar 42; D. Vettori c Ambrose b Anderson 43; J. Patel c Broad b Panesar 18; T. Southee (not out) 77; C. Martin b Sidebottom 5; Extras (b-6, lb-5, w-4, nb-1) 16. Total: 431.

Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-147, 3-156, 4-160, 5-172, 6-276, 7-281, 8-329, 9-347.

England bowling: Sidebottom 19.5-3-83-1; Anderson 17-2-99-1; Broad 32-10-78-2; Panesar 46-17-126-6; Collingwood 2-0-20-0; Pietersen 2-0-14.