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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Old Trafford lives up to reputation again

New Zealand 4/202 (R Taylor 67 no, J How 64) v England: Second Test Day 1, Old Trafford, Manchester.

Despite the abundance of cricket available at the moment (two Tests plus IPL) it was disappointing to see (on TV) only 54 overs bowled on the first, chilly, day of the Old Trafford Test. The weather was the primary cause, but a slow over rate also contributed.

New Zealand began well, surprisingly well considering their difficulties in finding a competent opening pair in the last few years. This time Jamie How and Aaron Redmond stayed together until the last ball of the 24th over when Ryan Sidebottom, England's current go-to bowler, clipped Redmond's off stump with a ball he'd left alone.

1/80 became 2/86 when Sidebottom had James Marshall lbw for another duck, then 3/102 when the mercurial Jimmy Anderson produced one of his best balls which had How caught behind for a well made 64/110b (7x4). Brendon McCullum briefly threatened a reprise of his Lord's peerformance by hitting a six and a four before Monty Panesar, who extracted some turn from the wicket, induced a snick to slip.

At 4/123 the Black Caps had squandered their early advantage. Their position didn't improve when at 136 Daniel Flynn had a tooth knocked out ("at two thirty" as Sir Ian Botham on Sky Sports put it). Fortunately Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram came to the rescue with a combination of flashy and aggressive strokeplay. Taylor, 67no /75 b (8x4, 1x6) looked more at home than Oram 22no/46b (4x4) but both managed to remain at the crease until the early suspension of hostilities for the day.

This will be the last test match played at Old Trafford for three years, for reasons which apparently are more to due with money than anything else. So for sentimental as well as practical reasons I hope that sufficient play is possible to achieve a result. At the moment it's hard to predict a winner, though I can't imagine the England top order batting as poorly here as it did at Lord's.

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