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It’s a bit strange to be writing on cricket with the sun setting at 4.00 pm but the recent series in New Zealand and the passing of Bob Willis are worthy of Rust review.

It was a dull series in New Zealand largely due to placid pitches. Crucial questions were left unresolved notably Joe Root’s captaincy.

Root will not be dropped as there is no obvious replacement so he will be left to learn on the hoof.

The job carries 3 onerous burdens: fronting up to the media, tactical decisions on the pitch and leading by example. It’s usually the final one that breaks a captain if he loses form. Root’s final century reflected his status amongst the big four in the world: Vijay Kohli, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith.

Jofra Archer only took two wickets.

Was he affected by the racist crowd comments, or is he a young tyro still learning his trade on less bountiful pitches and his unfamiliarity with the Kookabuurra ball?

Jack Leach also only took 2 wickets so there is a problem here too.

Maybe Moeen Ali will announce his return to Test cricket but he is a not great spinner and young Matt Patterson of Lancashire is too inexperienced.

Dominic Sibley looks unable to bridge the gap between county and Test batting.

Ollie Pope does but what’s happened to a more capable wicket keeper Ben Foakes who did so well in Sri Lanka? Surely the selectors for South Africa would do better to take him and play David Barstow as batter with Joh Buttler the first choice keeper?

The New Zealand series does not count towards the new Test league competition so it will soon be forgotten. It does confirm the predominance of home teams as England soon set off for South Africa, a country whose cricket is in turmoil with the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Board after a row with their cricketers’ association over image rights and no proper selectors.

Bob Willis took 323 wickets and will always be remembered for his 8-43 to beat the Aussies.

Two cricket lovers with whom I lunched referred to the odds of 500-1 in a two horse race set by Godfrey Evans, which Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee took up, should never be forgotten in assessing that game at Headingley.

Hey, 323 wickets in an era of far less Tests is more than impressive. His final days as a curmudgeonly analyst on The Verdict resulted in obit-speak that he was in fact warm and generous.

It’s a sad reflection of modern careers of ex players – especially footballers – that you are more likely to make a living by being controversial rather than well-informed and analytical.

About Douglas Heath

Douglas Heath began his lifelong love affair with cricket as an 8 year-old schoolboy playing OWZAT? Whilst listening to a 160s Ashes series on the radio. He later became half-decent at doing John Arlott impressions and is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. He holds no truck at all with the T20 version on the game. More Posts