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Friday, May 16, 2008

Test cricket resumes... with T20 flavour

New Zealand 6/208 (B McCullum 97, J Anderson 3/42) v England: at Lord's, First Test Day 1

I was looking forward to watching some Test cricket after several weeks where the only item on the menu has been the highly spiced IPL. Spice has its place, but I prefer a more varied diet.

Early rain, hardly surprising for England in May, delayed the start until after lunch. England won the toss and "chose to field", as modern cricketspeak has it, in overcast conditions which even from a couch on the other side of the world looked to favour bowlers.

The New Zealand top order on paper and, as it turned out in reality, is brittle, with two of the top six, Aaron Redmond and Daniel Flynn, making their Test debuts. England took the field in their near new ultra-white apparel (David Lloyd on TV said they looked like "a team of decorators") gained the ascendancy with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad taking the first five wickets for 105 by tea. Only James Marshall (24/71b) looked able to cope with the conditions, while Ross Taylor's 19/20b was straight out of the IPL (which he'd not long ago left) , ie totally inappropriate for these circumstances.

After tea, Brendon McCullum, who'd survived a testing over from Monty Panesar before the interval, and Jacob Oram resumed watchfully. McCullum eased towards IPL mode, moving towards the bowler and aiming to belt the ball to or over the boundary as much as possible. A flat batted six over extra cover off Broad was the shot of the day, though another off Panesar ran it close.

Gradually, correction rapidly, the partnership brought NZ back into the game. They played some streaky shots but gave no chances until, against the tide of the play, McCullum was bowled by Panesar from a ball which barely turned before taking off stump. His 97/97b was, given the conditions, a great innings, one which would have been great in all three cricket genres, even T20
despite his own IPL benchmark innings a few weeks ago.

While the Black Caps have recovered I don't think that they are on top yet. Much depends on the conditions for the remainder of the match and how the NZ attack, which is short on experience ( Tim Southee) and recent match practice (Daniel Vettori).

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