England must put in one last effort to salvage something from a forgettable winter when they take on New Zealand in the second and final Test at Christchurch, which starts tomorrow evening UK time (11pm).
Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon knows Joe Root’s side are better than a winter record of six Tests played, five defeats and one draw following the 4-0 Ashes reverse.
But they need to show it and give themselves some heart going into summer series against Pakistan and world number one side India back home.
England go into this Test on the back of being bowled out for 58 in the first innings of last week’s opener at Auckland’s Eden Park, their sixth lowest score of all time.
As an opening batsman, Moxon played 10 Tests for England in the late eighties, including five of them against New Zealand. He made his debut against them at Lord’s and played three away Tests at Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. His Test best score of 99 came at Auckland.
“It was that first session which effectively decided the Test,” he said of last week’s clash.
“It’s hard to completely judge what the situation is going into Christchurch because it’s not a normal situation to get bowled out for 58. It’s a once in a generation score.
“But there are issues to solve in terms of selection. Ben Stokes’ back is causing him problems. Is he going to be alright to bowl?
“A lot has been spoken about the bowling attack being a bit samey, but when you get bowled out for 58 it puts a hell of a lot of pressure on the bowlers. I don’t think you can blame them too much.
“But it’s an issue what their attack should look like in this Test.
“You wonder how much they trust the fitness of Mark Wood. He’s the one with the genuine pace, but is he able to get through the game without injury?
That’s something I’m not sure of from afar.
“Their options are limited. They could play Jack Leach ahead of Moeen Ali. They’d be more likely to do that if Stokes could bowl, giving you that all-rounder option.
“Ali’s form unfortunately is an issue.
“They may not play a spinner at all. Bringing in Liam Livingstone is an option if they want to strengthen the batting and have the option of a few overs of spin here and there.
“But whatever team they pick, they’ve got to bat better in the first innings. It is by and large that area of the team which is causing concern. Batsmen aren’t going on and scoring big hundreds.
“In Australia, they won because their batsmen scored more hundreds than we did. At Auckland, it was the same story. We are getting starts, just not going on.
“Hopefully, at the end of a long tour, they’ve got the energy and the desire to say ‘Do you know what, we’re better than this – we’re better than how we’ve performed in the winter so far’.
“We all know they’re capable, and you just hope they can put in one big last effort to nail it and at least finish the winter on a high.
“Then they’d be looking forward to the summer with a different frame of mind.”