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The Electronic Telegraph 2nd Test, New Zealand v England at Lord's
The Electronic Telegraph - 22-26 July 1999

Day 1: Abject England offer no resistance

Michael Henderson at Lord's

England 183 for 9 after 59.2 overs

There are many ways of describing the cricket that England played yesterday but one brutal adjective just about covers it: abject. To be reduced to 183 for nine before bad light stopped play, after Nasser Hussain had won his first toss as captain, was so submissive a piece of batting that every man jack of them should turn crimson at the thought of it.

The pitch held no terrors. It lacked pace and there was little evidence of movement, either off the seam or through the air, that should ever disturb batsmen of Test rank. Hussain, who had pronounced the pitch good beforehand, went some way towards proving it by spending more than 3.5 hours at the crease. The others perished to a succession of ill-executed strokes that made a perplexing spectacle.

What made it more troubling was the poverty of New Zealand's resources. The tourists went into the match a bowler light having opted to replace their opening bowler, Simon Doull, with an opening batsman, Matthew Bell. Other than the seven overs bowled by Nathan Astle, who was really only filling in, all the work was done by Geoff Allott, Dion Nash and Chris Cairns.

Cairns has taken five wickets, the sixth time he has done so in Tests. Nash, who took 11 wickets on this ground five years ago, grabbed three of the first five to disrupt the England innings in the hour before and after lunch. There was also the obligatory run-out involving Hussain, though he could hardly be held accountable for Andrew Caddick's reluctance to sprint the third run.

Hussain was 59 not out when he accepted the offer of bad light. He batted patiently, refusing to let New Zealand peep through his defence, and it was a good job somebody did otherwise this match would already be in its second innings. The only other contribution came from the man he succeeded as captain, though it would be stretching a point to say that Alec Stewart batted well.

Given the indifferent batting in this series, it is difficult to know what a good score is. The most imposing of three first innings totals so far is the 226 that New Zealand made at Edgbaston, which proved 100 more than England cobbled together in reply. But if New Zealand cannot move past England's apology of an innings here, and construct a big enough score to dominate the match, they may never.

It was a rum day all round. England recalled Dean Headley to the team an hour before the start after Alex Tudor, the hero of Edgbaston, withdrew with a knee injury considered so trivial the day before that Hussain rated it hardly worth a mention. Angus Fraser, summoned from Taunton to provide cover, had reached Chiswick by the time David Graveney, the team manager, informed him he could head back there.

Then, in the first session of play, sawdust was put down at the Pavilion End so that Dion Nash could grip the surface in his delivery stride. How on earth could the bowlers' footholds be damp when the rain that London has seen in the last two weeks wouldn't fill a seamstress's thimble? This curio, allied to the junior house match boundary at the Nursery End, where the ropes have been drawn in 20 yards, made this ground of grounds look second rate.

In that sense, it was of a piece with England's batting for there was no dismissal in which the batsman was not complicit in some way. Mark Butcher was the first when he aimed a drive at Cairns and presented Adam Parore with a catch off the inside edge. The lunch interval was three overs away when Stewart's limp stroke gave Stephen Fleming a slip catch and Nash his first wicket.

For all the enthusiasm his team-mates showed when he reached 50, and his own evident enjoyment, Stewart played like a matelot on the razzle with only three bob in his pocket. He would have been run out for seven, had Nash hit the stumps from extra cover, and half of his eight boundaries resulted from strokes that were either involuntary or fortunate.

Nash had conceded them all, three run through third man and another, to fine leg, off the inside edge, and he told the batsman what he thought of him in language that Stewart would recognise. Great was his delight, therefore, when Stewart, looking for more runs past the slips, guided a catch to the second of them.

After lunch, the indiscipline became a virus. Graham Thorpe, the best batsman in the side and a player in good form, was taken at second slip, as he had been at Edgbaston. Then it was Allott, coming round the wicket. On this occasion, Cairns was bowling over the wicket, and not doing a lot with the ball. It is baffling how often such a good batsman gets out so tamely.

A full bunger from Nash defeated Mark Ramprakash and, two overs later, the bowler hit Aftab Habib's off stump, as Cairns had done in Birmingham. Twice in successive innings Habib has been bowled through the gate and, as everybody knows, good batsmen do not get bowled; not often, anyway. As at Edgbaston, Habib was neither defending nor attacking, nor moving his feet. He simply missed a straight ball. It was ghastly.

When, in the following over, Cairns bowled Chris Read between his legs with a doodlebug the little stumper mistook for a beamer, it was hard not to laugh. Not at Read's misfortune, but at the sheer effrontery of the ploy. Franklyn Stephenson, another Nottinghamshire all-rounder of the recent past, fooled Brian Hardie, the Essex opener, in a similar manner 10 years ago in the Benson and Hedges Cup final. But to do it in a Test, as Cairns did, really is a hoot.

In half an hour of indiscreet cricket England had lost four wickets for 23 runs. It was miserable batting, nowhere near Test standard. Hussain gritted his teeth and saw the day out, though Cairns was later to have Dean Headley leg before and Alan Mullally caught at slip. Nine men out, and still 17 runs short of 200. Yes, this performance was absolutely abject.

Day 2: England the lowest of the low

Michael Henderson

Second day of five: New Zealand (242-6) lead England (186-all out) by 56 runs

The thought occurred, between yawns on a glorious summer afternoon, shortly before New Zealand gained a first-innings lead they had stretched to 56 by nightfall, that this is one of the flattest Test matches seen in this country. Not flat as in lacking edge. The game is still there to win and lose, and we will not need five days to find out which way it will go. Flat because the quality of cricket has been intolerably poor.

Lord's hummed all day to tales of share deals, property prices, Ring Cycles, foreign holidays, expensive meals, fine wines, recent films, erotic encounters, weekend plans, hopeless comedians; even, as God is my witness, championship scores. What people did not talk about, not often, was the cricket they were watching. It was bloodless, charmless and, so far as England were concerned, pretty hopeless.

As world cricket is currently constituted, there are two outstanding teams, Australia and Pakistan, one very good one in South Africa, a handsome one in India, and some modest ones. England and New Zealand belong in the last category and when they are locked in an embrace as passionless as this the cricket is unlikely to set the spirit soaring. This is a game between two poor teams.

England have been outplayed, though they retrieved a bit of ground by taking three late wickets, two with the new ball. To make as few as 186 after winning the toss was disgraceful, and for the team's spokesmen to talk of cloud cover, murky light and the ball swinging around as though they were playing ferocious fiends with matchsticks is a canard. Really! They must think we were all born yesterday. The truth is, they batted like nincompoops, so let's have no more of these feeble excuses.

If they bowled a good deal better they were still neither cutting nor persistent enough to disturb the New Zealanders until the day was almost done. The three quick bowlers tried their best but on this slow pitch, under a sun that came out to honour the batsmen, it was unrelenting work.

Matthew Horne ensured that it was. The right-handed opener completed his third Test hundred in the last hour and then lapsed into strokelessness, losing his wicket as he tried to hold what he had until the morrow. He played out a further 21 balls without adding to his score before he edged Dean Headley to third slip, though he clearly felt it was a bump ball. An over later, Andrew Caddick found the outside edge of Craig McMillan's bat.

Horne's was not scintillating batting but it served the purpose of a side desperate to level the series. It was Test match batting of a rigour quite beyond the more highly regarded players of England. He batted through 84 overs and struck 13 boundaries. He did his job.

Horne is not the first batsman to make a hundred on his first appearance at Lord's. Trevor Franklin, another Kiwi, made one nine years ago; an absolute shocker, if memory serves. More excitingly, Michael Slater got off the mark with a brilliant one in 1993 and Saurav Ganguly declared his talent three years later. When Australia were here two years ago, Matthew Elliott marked the occasion in a style that has come to appear depressingly familiar to England's bowlers.

Full marks, then, to Horne, who rode his luck along the way. Alan Mullally struck him a painful blow on the elbow on 42 and, 14 runs later, Phil Tufnell put down a difficult chance at fine leg when Horne pulled Caddick. But, after Matthew Bell and Stephen Fleming had gone early, Horne supplied the long innings the team required.

Begging his pardon, Mr Horne was not the first name that sprang to mind yesterday morning. Going to Lord's to find him at the crease is rather like turning up at the theatre hoping to watch a great actor only to find a playbill announcing: ``Mr Scofield is indisposed. The title role will now be taken by Mr Sidney Rumpole.''

Horne was batting within minutes of the resumption, after Chris Cairns had swiftly brought England's first innings to a conclusion with his sixth wicket. It was the 12th time in the last 23 innings that England had made fewer than 200 in their first innings. When a team perform that poorly it is not hard to feel sympathy for the bowlers who must bail them out.

Headley and Mullally each struck a minor blow before lunch, Headley in a rather confusing way. When Mervyn Kitchen gave Bell out it seemed he had upheld an appeal for a catch behind. It soon emerged he had given him out lbw, though the ball that brushed the top of the batsman's right pad seemed to be going over the stumps.

Fleming and Nathan Astle were both taken down the leg side by Chris Read, Astle as he gloved a ball he should have played more competently. Horne stood his ground and found an ally in Roger Twose, who made a pair going in first at Edgbaston. Now, coming in at 112 for three, he helped Horne add 120.

When Horne finally reached his hundred he supplied the one memorable moment of this long, dull day. Twose, having gone past 50, immediately donated his wicket to Headley as Caddick caught a mis-hit pull. Six runs later England took the new ball and found a late reward with Horne's departure. McMillan, who followed him, had faced 30 balls for three runs. The crowd, somnolent, stirred themselves briefly and went home, less than shaken.

Overall, there has been a complete absence of class on the first two days of this match. Neither with bat nor ball has anybody proclaimed, ``look at me, I'm special''. Indeed, there was a worrying period, for half an hour after lunch yesterday, when there was an almost total lack of engagement - either between the teams, or between the players and the crowd. What a good job Lord's looked so beautiful, otherwise it would have been quite frightful.

Day 3: Atherton needed as New Zealand get ready to add insult to injury

By Scyld Berry

Third day of five: England (186 & 107-4) trail New Zealand (358) by 65 runs

Alec Stewart goes for the sweep but is clean-bowled instead

New Zealand's record of never having won a Test match at Lord's is about to become like Nasser Hussain's finger: broken. Today, England will resume 65 runs behind on a pitch becoming difficult and with only six batsmen left, one of whom is incapacitated and two others incapable of serious batting.

Hussain is expected to need three weeks to recover from the fracture in the top joint of the middle finger of his right hand, and rather longer from the prospect of having to lead such a poor batting outfit.

When he dived to his left at gully in the morning session, the ball caught the end of his finger as it sped through and ensured that his first spell as England's captain would be nothing more than 1.5 Test matches.

In Hussain's place in the field, Graham Thorpe did everything that the uninviting circumstances allowed, but without the confident demeanour of a captain by habit.

It remains to be seen how the vice-captain performs in the rest of this match - if New Zealand should have a second innings - but it is unlikely he will have much scope to show his paces.

Yet however well Thorpe does here, and excellent prospect as he may be to succeed Hussain one day on a long-term basis, the prime candidate to be England's one-off captain for the third Test at Old Trafford has to be Mike Atherton, provided he can bat and field his way through Lancashire's championship match against Derbyshire this week.

``I feel great,'' Atherton said after Lancashire's victory over Hampshire. ``I feel as fit as I have done for two to three years, and I've had no new problems in the last three games.''

It is an absurd convention which prohibits former England captains from becoming captain again, and a recent one, too, as Colin Cowdrey was frequently reappointed.

It was fair enough that Alec Stewart, with his international career perceived to be on the line, should have been ignored yesterday in favour of Thorpe. But overall this modern convention smacks of the head boy being sent to the back of the class and never trusted again.

Wasim Akram's most successful reign as Pakistan's captain has been his current one, his fourth in office. ``Look at all that experience going to waste,'' Wasim commented yesterday, when Stewart was standing at long leg, completely out of proceedings, while a man with a minimal amount took charge. Pragmatism, and Pakistan, would have reinstated a former leader.

Stewart should be another contender to lead at Old Trafford, but if England lose this match and Chris Read fails again to make any contribution in his second innings, the time may finally have arrived when it is right for Stewart to keep wicket and bat down the order. Remember, too, that if Old Trafford is the turning pitch it is predicted to be, England will somehow have to make room for two specialist spinners.

But Atherton should be the prime contender to return as a one-off captain, not simply because Old Trafford is his home ground but because the game should be dominated by spin bowling, which is the hardest part of the game for an English captain to master, and Atherton's understanding is born of his wide experience. For the same reason, Stewart's hands would be too full if he had to captain and keep wicket on a minefield.

Hussain suffered his broken finger shortly before Adam Parore was dismissed and went to hospital for an X-ray. If there was no funny side to the accident for Hussain, there was for everybody who heard the announcement that he would only bat again ``if required''.

'When' would have been more appropriate as New Zealand's lead by then was far beyond 100 on a pitch taking increasing, if not bouncing, turn.

Thorpe, thereafter, was left to discover for himself that New Zealand's batting does its best to make up for, in quantity, what it lacks in technical accomplishment.

Like South Africa, their lower half often score as many as their upper half. This time they kept playing and missing and edging to third man, but until shortly after lunch they carried on scoring at three runs of varying merit per over.

Apart from Alan Mullally's eight overs for 40 runs on the day, England's bowling stayed accurate to the end. Dean Headley had done his best work in breaking New Zealand's back on Friday evening; Andy Caddick's lack of fraternal feeling for his foes kept him charging in; and finally, to wrap up the last two wickets, Phil Tufnell tossed the ball as Daniel Vettori was to do and made some amends for his three misfields, one of them the costly dropping of Matt Horne.

After his record-breaking debut at Edgbaston, Read again coped well with the inconsistent bounce when keeping to the spinners, and was again less polished in taking Tufnell.

When Vettori edged his drive, after a fifty which was best in its wristy cover-driving, Read was lucky to glove the ball on to the temporary captain at slip. England's deficit was ultimately 172, and their last six victories have come when behind on first innings: not this time though, we can wager.

Stewart's immediate future was still not fully secure when he entered for his second innings: his first had proved nothing more than that he could still take apart bowling short and wide. Something more watertight was required of him, and of all England's batting, which, apart from Hussain, had leaked so excessively on Thursday.

Strokeplay came easily to Stewart and Mark Butcher only while the ball was hard. Vettori came on from the Nursery End for the 10th over, leaving the seamers - Dion Nash again outstanding - to work the other end.

Stewart soon passed his thousand runs against New Zealand, a less distinguished landmark to go with his 6,000 Test runs, but then the ball softened and the run-scoring evaporated in the afternoon sun to the point where five runs were added in the 30 minutes after tea.

At such moments, when the going is toughest, England's batting has been known to crumble. Modest opposition though New Zealand are, England again demonstrated their great capacity to lower their game as both opening batsmen gave their wickets away. Ramprakash was passivity personified again, and complicit in the bowlers getting on top.

Butcher has been known to find ways of getting out to spinners before, as if his survival instinct is in doubt: for an opening batsman who has not been around for long, it is remarkable to have been stumped three times so far in his Test career. This time he dared a swing to leg in the over before tea and was caught by slip, running back.

If it was to be expected that Ramprakash would be cautious in the extreme at the start of his innings, Stewart also found it hard to score against Vettori after some early off-drives had handsomely pierced the field.

In trying to break out, he was bowled by Vettori from over the wicket, without any line of defence in case he missed his swing to leg. But at least his front foot, by then, was moving into the ball.

There was not enough time to tell whether Thorpe was affected by the captaincy burden, as he faced five balls, one of which he edged past slip off Vettori, and the last of which was Chris Cairns's dreaded slower offcutter which completely deceived. The ball was 'reversing' by now; and England were going backwards, too.

Aftab Habib had no better opportunity to prove his temperament. He lasted the day, but was reprieved twice in the process, once by gully and once by Rudi Koertzen. If this was a poor umpiring decision, when a spinner brushed his outside edge, it was of a piece with England's batting in both innings, which has been feeble in its shot selection and footwork.

It was unclear whether Headley came in at six on merit or as nightwatchman as England stumbled to the close, tied down by Vettori, their Lord's jinx as far as ever from being banished.

Day 4: England in deep despair

Michael Henderson

New Zealand (358 & 60-1) beat England (186 & 229) by 9 wkts

Nasser Hussain went into this match with a song in his heart. He left it with a broken heart, to go with his broken finger. The England captain, who had demanded greater application from his players, was repaid with indifference.

Nathan Astle (R) and Dion Nash and appeal for LBW

So were those spectators, more than 100,000 of them, who turned up expecting rather more from a team who had vowed to mend their woeful ways. My word, that really will be the day.

However many good intentions they brought with them from Edgbaston, England mislaid them on the way to Lord's, as they do so often. If a nine-wicket capitulation inside four days to a moderate New Zealand team is not a humiliation, it is difficult to know what is. Whereas the tourists, who were routed in 2.5 days in Birmingham, rose to the occasion after losing the toss, England were abysmal.

All hail the Kiwis. This was the 13th Test they have played at Lord's, in a sequence stretching back to 1931, and their first victory. Stephen Fleming's side have therefore done what proved beyond all those gifted players of the past. The Reids, the Turners, the Hadlees and the Crowes have all excelled here but it was Matthew Bell, making his first appearance at Lord's, who hit the runs that secured the match and brought the series level.

This defeat meant England's appalling run of results at Lord's stretches into the next century. They have won only one of their last 10 Tests on this ground and lost six.

Hussain will not be available for the third Test at Old Trafford. The broken middle finger of his right hand will take three weeks to heal properly and, for all his talk of being fit for Manchester, he will have to wait until the final Test, at the Oval, which starts on Aug 19. So the England caravan lurches up the M6 without its captain and its new coach, because Duncan Fletcher does not take up his post until October.

Graham Thorpe assumed the captaincy on Saturday and may well retain the job at Old Trafford, although Michael Atherton is an outside candidate, a rank outsider actually, since he has first to prove his fitness. This confusion of roles two matches into Hussain's stewardship is exactly what England did not need.

It would have been appropriate if Fletcher had been at Lord's. Instead, with Glamorgan not involved in the last round of championship matches, he was on holiday in Scotland. It is jolly nice north of the border at this time of year. There are fish to catch, and splendid coastal views, but surely he could have popped into Lord's for the first couple of days, if only to greet the players. At this rate the honourable gentleman is going to start very cold indeed when the team go to South Africa this winter.

Hussain chose not to bat in England's second innings, though his appearance at the crease would have shown the world that he wasn't going to give the game away without a fight. He is not the first batsman to have a finger snapped, he won't be the last, and it may genuinely have been unwise for him to bat. It should be kept in mind, though, that Moin Khan, of Pakistan, played throughout the recent World Cup with a fractured digit, and he had to keep wicket.

Test cricket is littered with tales of courage. On this ground in 1963 Colin Cowdrey went out to face Wes Hall with a broken arm to save the match. It was surely worth Hussain considering that, if he went in yesterday, on the fall of Dean Headley's wicket, he might have helped England find an additional 50 runs, maybe more. It would not have saved the game but it would have shown everyone that no team of his was ever going to lie down.

On Saturday, regrettably, they did just that. In the first innings not one of the top order batsmen was properly bowled out. When they began their reply to New Zealand's 358, in marvellous batting conditions, they made a gift of their wickets once again, like so many bountiful uncles at a children's party.

Mark Butcher, sweeping, was caught at slip off a top edge. Alec Stewart, also sweeping, was bowled neck and crop. Mark Ramprakash was caught behind as he flailed at a ball he should have treated with disdain. At the moment 'Ramps' can't buy a decent score. Thorpe alone was defeated, bowled by one that Chris Cairns kept back cleverly. What a grisly procession it made.

Aftab Habib, unaccountably adjudged not out by Rudi Koertzen when he hit the cover off the ball to be caught behind, survived the day and hung around for the better part of an hour yesterday morning before he offered the sort of catch that slip fielders stand there all day for. Another shocker, and with it that was the batsmen gone. That England set New Zealand any kind of target at all was due entirely to the bowlers.

Andrew Caddick has now made 96 runs in three innings and twice established his best score in Tests. He has also shared in two of England's best three partnerships this summer - 70 with Alex Tudor at Edgbaston and 78 yesterday with Chris Read, who atoned for his bizarre first-innings dismissal with 37 fairly well-tuned runs before he was lbw to Dion Nash.

Only Hussain, of the recognised batsmen, has made more runs in the first two Tests than Caddick, who is clearly enjoying his new role in the side. His performance puts into a distinctly unflattering light the antics of his supposed betters, of whom only Stewart and Butcher have shared a stand of even fifty. Of all the statistics to emerge from the series at the halfway stage that is surely the most revealing.

Caddick was within five runs of his maiden Test half-century when Geoff Allott took the edge of his bat and Fleming held the catch at first slip. That compensated the captain and his players for an incident in the previous over when Nathan Astle appeared to hold a good catch at second slip.

Phil Tufnell was prepared to walk but after Mervyn Kitchen referred the matter to the third umpire, Nigel Plews gave the batsman the benefit of a doubt that neither Astle nor Nash, the bowler, could credit. There was the peculiar spectacle of Tufnell and the whole New Zealand team, who were halfway to the pavilion, thinking they had wrapped up the innings, returning to their fielding positions to resume the match.

New Zealand have bowled, batted and fielded in this match with renewed purpose. Eight wickets for Chris Cairns, a solid hundred by Matthew Horne and Daniel Vettori's half-century on Saturday testify to that. They could do with brushing up their manners, though. Some of the banter in the middle was graceless and if Cairns feels he has to send a batsman as hopeless as Alan Mullally on his way with a shower of swear words he is playing the wrong game.

If only, New Zealand will be thinking, we had batted properly in the second innings at Edgbaston. They have responded impressively to that defeat, and embarrassed England hugely. The cricket in this match was poor, there's no doubt about that, but one side were very much poorer than the other. For anybody connected with the English game the shadows cast last night seemed oppressively long.

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