If the opening weeks were a convenient little warm up where England took both the T20 and ODI series 2-1, what followed was a particularly well timed clip round the ear. Since the second innings at Dunedin though, things have perked up considerably.
The non-issue at the top of the order has been put to bed until at least half way through the Ashes where Nick Compton would have to be having a real shocker to get dropped, and Stuart Broad has remembered how to bowl again. These are significant strides for an England team that came out here with a couple of chinks that an Australian team of years gone by would certainly exploit.
As it is, the attention is turning to Monty Panesar being one-dimensional, although with 161 Test wickets I would say he is a pretty good second option, which is exactly what he is because it will be a big surprise if Graeme Swann is not fit to regain his place come May.
And previous golden boy Joe Root is suddenly short of runs. Amazing how things turn around. It was interesting to hear Paul Collingwood on Sky during the rain in Wellington discussing how there was always a feeling within the England camp that at any one time there was always one player being targeted by the media. He also made the point that it was largely ignored.
When the team arrived in New Zealand it was Compton, but if I had to pick one it would be most people’s favourite target; Ian Bell. I know, I know – he got a wining hundred in Kolkata, but hear me out.
I’ve backed this guy for an awfully long time, but his match wining hundred in Kolkata was scored with the assistance of Jonathan Trott also hitting 143 to ease the pressure in the chase. He was certainly in trouble coming into that innings and he has been afforded a stay of execution because of it – but the way he has been getting himself out in New Zealand simply brings back all the old frustrations.
He may have only been dismissed twice in this series, but both have had the hallmark of brainless, uncaring batting which seems so common in the Twenty20 era. He has an exceptional record at Test level, but if he had the mental aptitude of a Cook, Compton or Trott he would be up there with the very best in the world game, rather than constantly having fans with their heads in their hands.
He’ll stay in the side of course, but runs for Root in any of the remaining Tests against New Zealand, at home or abroad, combined with a good start to the domestic season for Jonny Bairstow and Bell might just be one more hare-brained dismissal away from what he seems to think is the impossible.