Gooch delivers honest assessment
Graham Gooch believes England’s unexpected difficulties in New Zealand have been a “reality check” about what is required to win Test matches anywhere in the world.
The tourists reached stumps on day four of the final Test with a mighty task on their hands to somehow cling on for a drawn series.
Peter Fulton’s second century in the match at Eden Park - his 136 three days ago was the 34-year-old’s first in Test cricket - helped New Zealand to 224 for six declared.
England, in theoretical pursuit of a world-record 481 to win, then needed to bat out the four and a half remaining sessions to close out a third successive stalemate and therefore a 0-0 outcome.
By stumps, they were 90 for four and staring down the barrel of a 1-0 series defeat.
Batting coach Gooch was not yet giving up hope, but said: “I think it’s a great reality check that you can’t take any team lightly, and you can’t play people on what it says in the rankings or what it says on a piece of paper.
“You have to play good cricket on the field, to compete, and certainly in probably two out of the three matches New Zealand have been in the ascendancy.
“Our performance is not up to the standard we’ve produced in the past, on a consistent basis - so we’ll have to look at that.”
England are in obvious danger of finishing an otherwise encouraging winter, after their historic win in India, on a disappointing note.
“We didn’t play well ... they’ve outbowled us, and they’ve outbatted us,” Gooch said of the ongoing match. “That isn’t what we wanted when we came here, but credit to them.
“We’ve had some great Test series in recent times - beating India 4-0 at home, the Ashes, coming back from losing the first Test in India. We’ve played some really good cricket; in this one, we’ve not produced our best.
“It’s not the sort of conclusion to the winter tours we would have wanted, that’s for sure. We wanted to finish strongly going into our summer, build on the Test cricket we played in India towards the middle and end of that series.
“Here, we’ve not found that form. So we’ve got to be disappointed. You can’t be happy with the way we’ve played.”
England’s batsmen were no match for New Zealand’s swing bowlers in their first innings - a fact not lost on former Test captain and opener Gooch.
“We’ve not played to the sort of level in this match we’d have liked to,” he said. “The ball swung around a little bit yesterday, and we got some lbws and lost wickets - which is disappointing and not up to the standard we’d expect to deliver in a Test match.
“If you get bowled out for 160, like we did in the first match, and 204 yesterday in a five-day game you are under pressure.
"We found that in Ahmedabad - got bowled out for a low score in the first innings, batted brilliantly in the second, but it was too late. Generally, over a five-day match, that is what happens.”
Cook is completing his first winter as England captain, following the retirement of Andrew Strauss last August, and Gooch expects his protege to continue on an inevitable learning curve.
“I think Alastair has done very well with his captaincy,” he said. “He’s learning. It’s a work in progress. This match, things have gone badly for England. He’ll accept that, but I hope he’ll come back stronger - and I’m sure he will.”
Fulton may go from strength to strength for New Zealand too, having begun this series with an average in the low 20s after a four-year hiatus in his Test career.
He said: “This is clearly a pretty special day for me. To get one (hundred) was a mixture of excitement and relief as well, to finally tick that off.”
The tall opener dug in for his maiden ton, and in the early stages of his second after the Kiwis stumbled to eight for three last night.
He added: “It was nice to show a few people who maybe don’t watch a lot of domestic cricket that I can bat like that. I guess it proves if you keep sticking at it, and you don’t lose faith in yourself, good things can happen.”