A day very familiar to England fans, this. Starting the day slightly
ahead after taking a late wicket or two the previous evening, it
simply required a bit of application and there'd be a chance of a win.
After a couple of early deliveries had looked as though they might get
he batsmen in trouble, the overnight pair dug in and then started to
score freely as the bowlers served up increasingly rank piles of
doggy-doo, a breakthrough only brought in a batsman keeper who
proceeded to knock off a rapid hundred, so instead of a first-innings
lead, it's a substantial deficit, and then lose five wickets before
you've even reached the total required to make the oppo bat again. One
of the batsmen had his finger broken for him in the first innings, and
one of the bowlers has limped off, his Test series over. Just another
ordinary day on an Ashes tour.
What wasn't familiar was that it was England handing out the
punishment and New Zealand cast in the hapless bunch of tourists'
This is not a good pitch now. It was reasonable on days one and two,
started to misbehave on day three and misbehaved some more on day
four. But it's only a bit ***: you might threaten to send it to
bed without any supper, but you wouldn't really mean it. It's not been
a minefield. England managed to score 282 runs in 70 overs on it, and
that is a sad reflection on the Kiwi bowling.
In post-innings interviews, both Flintoff and Trescothick said they
never felt comfortably in on the pitch, and Flintoff went on to say
that he'd had to s***for every run because he wasn't feeling in the
best of form. It's a measure of what the fans have come to expect from
him that we sat around in the stands applauding his judicious shot
selection rather than realising he was having trouble as he crawled to
94 off 144 balls. While they were together, he was the junior partner
keeping an end up while Jones blazed away, and had only contributed
about 40 to the partnership of 118 (off 117 balls) when he holed out
trying to reach his 100 with a six (Jones had reached his maiden Test
fifty by smacking Vettori back over his head for six - shortly before
Vettori got a bit too energetic trying to throw a ball in and tore his
Jones slowed down a bit after that, but got solid support from Giles
and then Hoggard as he neared three figures. When he was on 99,
Fleming set a field which was recognisable as attempting to exert a
little pressure, with almost everyone in one-saving positions, but
that lasted two balls, until Jones dabbed one backward of point and
danced down the wicket punching the air. He was obviously delighted
with his hundred, and seemed to love the ovation, and decided to have
an action replay on his march back to the pavilion having given gully
a regulation catch.
The last three wickets fell for no runs, just as in the New Zealand
innings, but that was about the only similarity between the two.
With a lead of 117, England were in with a great chance, as long as
they bowled with more intelligence and discipline than NZ had.
Harmison charged in from the top and Hoggard up the hill, and both
banged it in far too short or far too wide, so Richardson and Fleming
picked off some easy runs when they weren't leaving balls they had no
need to play.
After a dozen overs of the new ball being entirely wasted, Flintoff
replaced Hoggard and Saggers Harmison. They both bowled a fuller
length and had the batsmen tucked up and in trouble more often. In the
17th over, Flintoff got one to climb on Fleming and Strauss too the
catch at forward short leg. That brought McCullum in, and he decided
that attack was hte best form of defence and threw the bat at the ball
to some effect, which also got Richardson interested in hitting the
ball. They were making useful progress, so Harmison and Hoggard were
brought back from the opposite ends.
Harmison's first over saw him getting the batsmen lined up, but
Hoggard started his spell disappointingly, Richardson hitting him for
yet another boundary. Next ball, though, Richardson top-edged to
Jones, and Hoggard suddenly gained a yard of pace and a tone of
The first ball of Harmison's next over went off the edge of McCullum's
bat between first and second slip, and Trescothick pulled off a
magnificent one-handed catch with the ball almost past him at about
The Barmy Army on the West Stand were now in full voice, shouting
"Vaughan-y, Vaughan-y, give us a wave!" and after a minute or two of
it, Vaughan did. So, between balls of Harmison's over, they went on to
get Strauss-y, Geraint and Marcus to do little dances or waves for
Next over, Hoggard had a desperately close lbw shout turned down
against Astle. But his disappointment did last long, as Bucknor
answered his appeal off the next ball in the affirmative.
Tuffey came out as nigh***chman, and departed the following over,
edging Harmison to Jones again.
75/1 had become 91/5 adn there were still five overs to go. Styris and
Oram survived them and ended on 102/5, still 15 adrift.
It will take an 81-style miracle to save New Zealand now. They may
have the batsmen in Styris, Oram and Cairns, but they have no
potential Bob Willis that I can see.