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The Electronic Telegraph 1st Test: England v New Zealand
Reports from the Electronic Telegraph - 01-05 July 1999

Day 1: Hussain's men have Kiwis floundering

Michael Henderson

On his first outing as the England captain, Nasser Hussain cast his net upon the water and found a decent catch. By the close of the opening day of the first Test, he could take home a healthy basket of fish, in the shape of New Zealand wickets, after England bowled out the tourists just before six o'clock for 226.

It was not a ``hats-off'' day, not quite. The bowlers were assisted in the morning by some moderate batting, which is not something that will concern Hussain. He lost the toss and still had much the better of a day's cricket played in overcast conditions, when the rain that had drenched the outfield during the night seemed likely to return at any moment.

It was a day suited to those bowlers who could swing the ball, and there was some bounce in the pitch, too. By far the best bowling came from Andrew Caddick, in his second spell after lunch, when he took the wickets of Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan, but it would be wrong to put out the bunting just yet, for they can bowl much better as a team.

Even so, it was good to see them clamber back into the saddle after coming such a cropper the last time they were at Edgbaston. It was on this ground five weeks ago that England departed the World Cup, clothed from head to toe in embarrassment after losing a rain-affected game to India.

There have been plenty of recriminations since that dismal Sunday, and the reverberations of Alec Stewart's deposition as captain rumbled on to the eve of this match. You wouldn't have known it by the way they went about things yesterday. They looked a nimble-footed side in the field and their catching was good, which is one way of gauging a team's health.

Hussain held two snorters at slip, to give Phil Tufnell his first Test wickets since March last year, and there were three slip catches for Graham Thorpe. Although Adam Parore offered a couple of chances that were not accepted, most things went tickety-boo. Mark Butcher's diving, right-handed snaffle at midwicket that gave Tufnell his third wicket was the pick of a notable collection.

Two cheers, then, for 'Tuffers', who waited until the 54th over to make his entrance, and bowled 17 overs to good effect. Two cheers also for Caddick whose post-lunch burst compensated for an indulgent one with the new ball. Like Tufnell, he took three wickets on his return to the side after he had won the morning vote for the third pace bowler ahead of Dean Headley.

Neither man deserves three cheers because they will bowl better for fewer rewards and, in any case, it is too early to throw flowers at actors who have forgotten their lines in the past. They played their parts well enough yesterday. They did not walk into the scenery or wave at friends in the audience, and now they must hope they can put up their feet for a day or so as the batsmen build a big enough score to make their second innings task less demanding.

It was a good day for the new boy, too. Chris Read, the youngest wicketkeeper to play for England, held two catches, neither of them difficult, but it was his unobtrusive manner that caught the eye, or rather, didn't. If he missed an awkward bottom edge off Parore in Tufnell's second over, then he didn't let it worry him. This was a quietly accomplished first day showing.

Parore, who was also reprieved by Stewart at second slip when he failed to pick up an edged stroke off Alex Tudor, was the last man out for 73. It was his best score against England, nine years after he made his Test debut against them on this ground, and it was only his stand of 85 for the seventh wicket with Dion Nash that enabled New Zealand to pass 200.

They lost Roger Twose, caught at first slip, to the third ball of the day and England had ripped out three more wickets by lunch. Matthew Horne was lbw to Caddick, his bat hidden behind his front pad, and Tudor took his first Test wicket in this country when his bounce surprised Stephen Fleming on the front foot, and Thorpe supplied another catch for his county team-mate.

Butcher, the fourth Surrey player in this team, has been among the wickets this season, and when Hussain turned to him, and granted him a 7-2 field, he prised out Nathan Astle, following an outswinger, for his maiden Test wicket, and Read's ice-breaking catch.

Caddick, returning after lunch, soon caught Cairns in his follow-through, after he had dropped a harder return chance from the batsman, and when he took the edge of McMillan's bat, Thorpe swooped low for the smartest of his catches. Then Parore took root and, in the next 30 overs, he and Nash batted their team towards a position of respectability.

The introduction of Tufnell eventually bore fruit, to the delight of the younger spectators in the Eric Hollies Stand, whose treble chorus throughout the day conveyed the impression of a Boy Scouts' jamboree. It's a good job Warwickshire and the England and Wales Cricket Board ``papered the house''. Otherwise a small crowd would have looked a good deal thinner.

Day 2: Caddick in seamers' paradise

By Michael Henderson

Gourmands salivate at the prospect of feasting at the tables of Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White. Oenophiles hope to sup their fill in the distinguished cellars of Burgundy. A private audience with Alfred Brendel playing Schubert would see music-lovers gratefully into the afterlife. But fast bowlers only have to turn up at Edgbaston to see all their dreams come true.

The Birmingham Test has again lived up to its reputation as a batsman's graveyard. And how! If a band of saints had marched into the pavilion at any stage of a most peculiar day, and promised eternal life to all who repented of their sins, but only if they left that very moment, the bowlers of England and New Zealand might well have agreed that Heaven can wait.

This really was an extraordinary day. New Zealand dismissed England for 126, their lowest score against these opponents in this country, and then surrendered their second innings after tea for 19 runs fewer. To win the first Test of this four-match series, and give Nasser Hussain the start he seeks as captain, England were left to make 208. Before bad light stopped play two overs early there was a 21st wicket as Geoff Allott yorked Alec Stewart all ends up.

The ball moved about all day, through the air and off the pitch. Andrew Caddick took five wickets, including a burst of four for one in 18 balls, and there were three each for Alan Mullally, Dion Nash and Chris Cairns. Simon Doull, who bowled as well as anybody, claimed only one but the 46 runs he supplied at the end of New Zealand's second innings might prove significant.

Doull, who joined his captain at 52 for eight, with Caddick pawing the turf and expecting a wicket every ball, played some authentic strokes in the last hour, and eventually forced Hussain to summon Phil Tufnell. The spinner promptly brought down the curtain on the third act of a low comedy when Chris Read caught Stephen Fleming, after a bit of a juggle, and then stumped Doull.

That shuffle of gloves made the little chap's day. Until that moment no England wicketkeeper had achieved six victims on his Test debut, and the two first-innings catches give him eight in the match. That is some feather for the 20-year-old Devonian to stick in his cap. Jolly well done, Mr Stumper.

However hectic, the events on the first two days merely accord with recent Tests on this ground. Four years ago England lost here inside three days to West Indies, when the first ball of the game, bowled by Curtly Ambrose, cleared Michael Atherton's head and went for four byes. The following year India carried play into Sunday only because Sachin Tendulkar made a century of rare brilliance.

Even last year, when Atherton made an excellent hundred and shared an opening stand of 179 with Mark Butcher, the ball moved all over the place on the first day. In overcast conditions, and also on sunny days like yesterday, when batting should be a delight, the ball jags and darts like nowhere else in England.

Some of the cricket yesterday, when England conceded a lead of exactly 100, and New Zealand matched them howler for howler, belonged to the world of the junior house match. However good the bowling was at times - and let's not get carried away, England are not facing Donald and Pollock, nor New Zealand Wasim and Shoaib - the selection and execution of strokes was often lamentable.

How else does one account for the fact that seven wickets went down before lunch, or that Caddick and Alex Tudor, making their best scores in Test cricket, contributed half England's runs? They added 70 for the eighth wicket and, as Doull was to do later, they put matters into perspective. Batting should not have been as difficult as these players made it appear.

The morning dawned bright and clear after the dankness of the first day and, as Butcher launched the innings by pulling Allott for four, and driving Doull for a handsome straight boundary, the crowd settled back to watch England bat themselves into a strong position by nightfall. What tricks followed!

Stewart had gone by then, lbw to Allott as he opted not to play a ball that nipped back, but there were no gremlins in the pitch, and when Hussain appeared to a good hand, he surely drew comfort from the memory of the opening day, on which they had bowled out the tourists for a less than intimidating 226.

What transpired in that first session was nothing short of calamitous. It began when Butcher, charging to the striker's end, was run out as Hussain rightly judged a run to be an unnecessary risk, and it ended when Read offered a low catch to gully when Nash got one to pop.

Hussain and Mark Ramprakash received top-notch balls, though the captain might have covered his, which broke from middle to off, with a fuller stride.

Ramprakash was brilliantly caught by Adam Parore, who changed direction to take off far to his right, after Cairns had turned the batsman round in his stroke.

Graham Thorpe, the most accomplished batsman in the side, was caught at slip as he offered Allott a tentative bat. Aftab Habib, like Ramprakash, was reduced to strokelessness, facing 27 balls on his debut for one run acquired, and losing his wicket to an awful stroke, neither defensive nor offensive, to a ball that gated him and hit his middle stump.

It was at the remarkable score of 45 for seven, therefore, that Tudor joined Caddick in the unlikely partnership that was to take England to the riches of 126. Caddick, missed by Fleming at slip when he was 17, has made an impressive all-round contribution but it was Tudor, confirming the healthy impression he made during the New Year Test in Sydney, who looked a proper batsman.

Caddick wasted no time in retrieving the advantage when New Zealand batted again. Roger Twose completed a pair when he was lbw to the first ball of the innings, and Mullally charged into the breach with three wickets, the second of which Nathan Astle donated most kindly with an ugly scythe that agricultural labourers would disown.

Stewart, who had grassed a simple chance at slip when Fleming had a single to his name, partly compensated when Parore steered another opportunity his way, and Read held two of his five catches as Caddick switched to the City End, where he had taken his first innings wickets, with considerable effect.

Fleming resisted for three hours, however, and Doull set about his business in a bracing manner that pushed England's requirement above 200.

They could have done without the loss of Stewart, the one man to be dismissed twice on this remarkable day, and it is a brave man who can say with conviction that England will find the 205 runs that remain outstanding.

Day 3: Hussain crowns his accession with victory in tale of Tudor and Stewart

Scyld Berry

Scyld Berry sees the Surrey pair give England's captain cause for joy and concern

It was not so much a game of vintage cricket as corked cricket, so poor was the standard of batting overall and so numerous the unforced errors. But a seven-wicket victory, after conceding a lead of 100 in a low-scoring match, made a fair start to Nasser Hussain's captaincy and perhaps of the Tudor age.

When Alex Tudor top-edged the winning boundary an hour before tea, Hussain became the first England captain to win his first Test since Bob Willis did so in 1982 against opponents who were almost as malleable in India. In the second half of the match England played well enough to be able to claim they have carried on from where they had left off in Australia, as a mid-table team.

Anything less than an England victory would have been disastrous to English cricket and everyone trying to rehabilitate it after the World Cup. England have never lost to New Zealand in England except twice, in the 1980s, when they had two world-class players in Martin Crowe (who chose Tudor as man of the match) and Richard Hadlee. If they had lost here, England would have had no such excuse.

Alec Stewart's position and form remain a problem - he has become, like garlic bread, a poor starter, which is no great recommendation for an opening batsman. But England at least showed some spirit for the fight when they were 45 for seven on Friday; and their seam bowlers learnt to pitch the ball up after aiming too short on Thursday, whereas New Zealand's bowlers went the other way round; and, the best feature of all so far of Hussain's captaincy, Phil Tufnell has responded to his encouragement and performed as the best spinner in the land.

On the debit side, apart from Stewart, has been Hussain's running between wickets. His failure to respond to Mark Butcher's call cast a blight over England's first innings, for if quick singles are not to be taken, the only way out of a batting crisis is big, risky, shot-making. In this respect, if no other, the new captain has to change his ways and join the Surrey members of his England side in transferring the pressure on to the opposition as the Australians would.

From the resumption yesterday Butcher set an altogether different tone to England's second innings with the co-operation of a more responsive partner. The brighter morning and the fresher breeze, which reduced the humidity and swing, were important ingredients in England's victory, and the loud approval of England's most patriotic crowd, but so too the more positive approach to batting and to running.

In the first over of the day Butcher took a quick single as well as square-cutting a four, while in the second he called Tudor for a leg-bye in addition to driving a two and clipping a three. Blessed with both quick singles and big shots, England were away with a momentum that was never to be arrested. The nightmarish forebodings were immediately dispelled. In an innings of 43.4 overs England hit 38 fours.

The strong breeze also served England well in that Simon Doull had to labour into it and often dropped short. Such a flying start did England enjoy, they posted 31 off the first five overs and 50 in the ninth, so that the 10th over was not delivered by a seamer at all but Daniel Vettori. As the only thing that was swinging was Tudor's bat, the one last possible threat to England was from low bounce to go with the occasional steep lift, and the handful of balls which did keep low were not sufficiently straight to be deadly.

When Butcher, after becoming the first specialist batsman of the game to reach 30, was given caught behind, Tudor had just outscored him, relishing the extra liberty to play shots which an all-rounder has. He was a bit hit-and-miss at the start of his innings, and at the end after entering uncharted waters (his previous highest first-class score was 56), but in between he played some drives through the covers off the back foot which had the power and presence of Clyde Walcott in his West Indian heyday.

Tudor's height enabled him to ride the bounce unlike shorter mortals, but it still required uncommon skill on the back foot to produce the majority of his 21 fours. The previous highest innings by an England nightwatchman in modern times was 95 by Eddie Hemmings, and in all their history 98 by Harold Larwood, both against Australia.

In his two innings Tudor scored 131 out of England's 298 runs off the bat, which more than made up on this occasion for his under-performance with the ball that threw an even greater weight upon Andy Caddick and Alan Mullally.

Hussain so eschewed running between wickets in his second innings that his first 36 runs were made up of fours as he kept the tourists down. Not until the 27th over, shortly before lunch, was a maiden over bowled. After the interval the crowd was in full-throated song, and the tourists bore the look of a team who do not know what it is like to win abroad.

Graham Thorpe was the victim of some booing for pressing home to win without waiting for Tudor to make his hundred, but that was after ascertaining that his partner wanted the game won quickly and in style. Like Mike Atherton at Trent Bridge last summer, Tudor had to hit a six to reach his century, and came rather closer to doing so, but not quite close enough for the crowd's jubilation to be complete.

This victory took England's record at Edgbaston to 18 wins in 35 Tests, increasing its status as their most successful ground. In other words there will not be an official complaint by the ECB about the pitch and its inconsistent bounce, which was excessive but almost justifiable in the circumstances. It was during the World Cup semi-final that the Test pitch was cut up so badly that another had to be prepared at a fortnight's notice.

These conditions were the optimum for New Zealand. On the flatter pitches to come their specialist batsmen are more likely to get away with their rugged methods, which cost them this game when they threw the bat without moving their feet in their second innings. But a lack of penetration in their bowling was shown up yesterday by Tudor with a handsome flourish which should have set the tone for England's summer.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk