With a litany of wretched strokes, ill chosen and woefully executed, they were dismissed by New Zealand for 167 in 55 overs after the match finally started on the second day.
Almost nobody who batted could be exempt from censure. It was
England’s lowest total batting first against the Kiwis in 43 Test matches and
perhaps more pertinently it was the fourth time in successive overseas tours
that they had failed to reach 200 in their first innings of the first Test.
Nothing put the innings into perspective so much as New Zealand’s
response, which began with almost half the day left. They finished on 131 for 0
as the tourists’ bowlers were infected by similar shoddy workmanship to the
batsmen. Hamish Rutherford, began his Test career with 77no and the recalled
Peter Fulton was on 46.
It had been a different game and when Kevin Pietersen dropped
Rutherford at point off Stuart Broad it compounded all previous felonies. This
was England’s worst opening day of play in a Test since they were all out for
102 against Australia at Headingley in 2009 when their opponents replied with
196 for 4 by the close.
Although New Zealand stuck well to clearly defined plans, they
were offered abundant help in carrying them out. The pitch encouraged seam as
pitches usually do in New Zealand and England but that apart it was
Jonathan Trott, in by the third over, was England’s leading scorer
with 45 but after a blameless occupation of nearly three hours he too came up
with a shot which he would not care to repeat in any coaching clinic. The
bowlers who inflicted the damage were men who hitherto have barely sent ripples
let alone tremors through the ranks of top-class batsmen.
Neil Wagner, a left arm seamer playing his fourth Test and his
first at home, took 4 for 42 while the debutant 32-year-old left arm spinner,
Bruce Martin returned 4 for 43. It
started to go awry for the tourists from the third over.
Nick Compton, whose chief virtue in his brief international career
has been the certainty of his defence, played an indifferent forward prod at
Tim Southee and was aghast when the ball rebounded from the bottom of his bat
and on to the stumps.
Retrenchment was necessary and who better for the job than
England’s stoic captain, Alastair Cook? When he was reprieved by Martin, who
shelled a chance from a clip off the batsman’s legs, it seemed for all the world
that New Zealand would be made to pay.
Instead, the next over brought Cook’s dismissal as he contrived to
cut a wide short ball – Wagner’s second delivery in a Test at home – high to
point where Rutherford, pouched the catch. Immediately, Engand’s woes were to
Wagner greeted Kevin Pietersen with a full length ball which swung
late into his pads before he was through the forward defensive. It was a horrible ball to deal with at the
start of an innings and umpire Asad Rauf’s finger was up before the appeal was
At 18 for three, England were up against it but by no means done.
Trott and Ian Bell set about rebuilding the innings with diligence and in
Bell’s case no little style.
But not for the first time in his time as a high-class international
batsman, Bell gave his wicket away with a whimper. With Wagner coming round the
wicket, he badly mistimed his drive which went in the air to short extra cover
where Rutherford held a straightforward chance at the second attempt.
Before lunch, Joe Root was out parrying a rising ball from Trent
Boult to third slip. England went into the break at 81 for five and after it
there followed a brief flurry from Trott and Matt Prior, who was as busy and
businesslike as ever.
But Prior carved needlessly to point and when Stuart Broad
followed a pulled four with another pull down deep square leg’s throat next
ball, the man having been placed there in full view for that very purpose,
England’s misery seemed complete.
There followed the only prolonged resistance and the highest
partnership of the innings, between Steve Finn and Jimmy Anderson. They put on
47 for the ninth wicket in largely untroubled style before Finn followed the
pattern of the innings by top edging a pull.
Anderson brought the innings to a close with a slice to backward
point. England needed quick wickets but never looked like acquiring them.
If anything the pitch was flatter by now, the sun was out and New
Zealand’s batsmen shone along with it. The recalled Peter Fulton and
Rutherford, in his maiden Test were splendid foils for each other.
first Test: England produce abject batting performance – The Independent
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