New Zealand cruise to eight-wicket victory over sorry England

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

Tom Latham surpassed 4,000 Test runs as he led New Zealand to a comprehensive eight-wicket triumph over England in the second Test at Edgbaston.

The damage had been done on Saturday, as England collapsed to 122-9 in their second innings, leaving the Black Caps on the verge of their first Test series win in England since 1999.

Trent Boult sent Olly Stone back to the pavilion with the first delivery of day four, leaving New Zealand chasing a mere 38.

Devon Conway was dismissed in the second over, though stand-in captain Latham (23) ticked off a milestone as New Zealand cruised to a maiden Test win at Edgbaston, setting themselves up for the ICC Test Championship final against India in emphatic fashion.

Any possibilities of complacency creeping in from New Zealand were dashed before a minute of play, Boult's supreme delivery nicking off Stone's edge and through to Tom Blundell.

A maiden over from James Anderson – whose record-setting Test match has not gone according to script – kept Latham, six off his 4,000th run in the longest format, at bay, and Stuart Broad subsequently gave the crowd something to cheer.

Conway fished at a delivery outside his off stump, with James Bracey gathering it in.

Latham and Will Young knew the Test was won, though, with sensible shots from New Zealand's stand-in skipper ticking him towards the landmark, which came when he nudged Broad for a single.

Mark Wood very nearly ran Latham out with an acrobatic, underarm throw from close range, though even that wicket would have been immaterial.

After clipping a brilliant shot through backward point, Young dragged a wider Stone delivery onto his stumps, but Latham fittingly had the final say.

A sublime flick to the legside boundary was followed up by a deft touch through to third man to seal a 1-0 series win, just New Zealand's second in England.

No home comforts for sorry England

England's footballers get their Euro 2020 campaign started on Sunday, and the Edgbaston crowd were singing "football's coming home" as they watched the cricketers learn a brutal lesson in the Birmingham sunshine.

Joe Root's team, who have lost a series on home soil for the first time since 2014, do not convene again until they host India in August. While they had injuries to key players, along with off-the-field issues that marred the first Test, England have much to improve on, with their batting once again letting their bowling attack down.

Black Caps top the rankings as dominance over England rolls on

With this triumph, New Zealand have moved ahead of India to the top of the ICC Test rankings, though the ultimate test will of course come in the inaugural ICC Test Championship final against Virat Kohli's team in Southampton next week.

New Zealand may have ended a dismal run in England, but overall, they have now not lost a Test to them since 2015 – a run of seven.

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    There are some obvious strengths that Varane would bring to United at the back – chief among them is his pace, which they arguably don't have a great deal of at centre-back.

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    Centre-back certainly isn't the only area United fans would be eager to see an upgrade – there's little doubt they have room for growth in midfield, regardless of whether or not Paul Pogba leaves.

    The Frenchman actually featured more from the left during the second half of 2020-21 and looked more comfortable out there with some creative freedom, rather than sitting behind Bruno Fernandes in the middle.

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    But neither are particularly creative. Fred laid on 25 key passes with an expected assists (xA) value of 2.1, while McTominay created 17 chances that combined to an xA total of 0.7.

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    If Solskjaer is to implement a more forward-thinking setup in 2021-22, he would be wise to finally ditch the Fred-McTominay axis. More often than not, it comes across as extremely conservative.

    But the caveat to that is Solskjaer's rather limited options. Donny van de Beek endured a pretty dreadful first season as he showed very little authority whenever he played, Pogba was more useful towards the left so his lack of work rate off the ball wasn't exposed, and Nemanja Matic just isn't athletic enough anymore even if he is still a talented ball-player.

    Pressure now on Ole

    Who's to say if another midfielder, Varane and Sancho will be enough to overthrow Manchester City while also holding off a Liverpool side who promise to be back with a vengeance and defending European champions Chelsea.

    But such decisive addressing of the team's weak points should at least give Solskjaer the right tools to work with. It'll then be on him to prove conclusively he's the right man for the job, because further under-achieving with such a strong squad won't be tolerated for long, regardless of his new contract.

    Jose Mourinho was sacked less than a year after signing his renewal in January 2018.

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