• New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 3rd day

England rocking as Rutherford rolled

The Report by David Hopps
March 8, 2013 « Arsenal deny takeover talk | Chartbeat test »
New Zealand 402 for 7 (Rutherford 171, Fulton 55, Anderson 4-108) lead England 167 (Trott 45, Wagner 4-42, Martin 4-43) by 235 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Hamish Rutherford wrote himself a place in the history books © Getty Images
Enlarge

Hamish Rutherford completed one of the most audacious batting debuts in Test history as New Zealand took a firm grip of the first Test in Dunedin. Rutherford's 171, the seventh highest maiden Test innings, left England trailing by 235 at the end of a third day of an opening Test that has shaken their sense of well-being to the core.

Rutherford achieved a century on Test debut on his home ground and showed an uncomplicated appetite for mayhem as he made England pay for their hapless batting performance on the previous day. His freewheeling innings - 217 balls, 22 fours and three sixes - came to an end against the first delivery with the second new ball when he played too early at James Anderson and spooned him tamely to square leg.

Against the first new ball, though, he ruled supreme. Rutherford, like his father before him, does not look the type to fret unduly about his cricket. He thrashed 90 in an extended, 35-over morning session, at one point despatching Monty Panesar's left-arm spin for two sixes in an over to sail past 150. As England watched the ball disappear into gloomy skies, they must have wished they would darken some more over the wooded hills beyond and spare them further misery. They gradually did, a dank afternoon clipping the final session to only five overs.

Only Mathew Sinclair's double hundred on debut - 214 against West Indies in Wellington to wave goodbye to the old century - has exceeded Rutherford among New Zealand debutants. He chased anything wide with abandon and it was the way he severed the cover region against England's quick bowlers which stuck most in the memory.

He was 77 not out overnight and he soon thrashed five more boundaries to reach his hundred, the ninth New Zealand batsman to do so on debut. He was congratulated at the non-striker's end by Kane Williamson, who was the last New Zealand batsman to achieve the feat. Rutherford felt at home and emboldened in a genial country atmosphere; Williamson did it in Ahmedabad, which especially for a young batsman on Test debut must have felt a harsher environment.

England came out for the third morning with a new plan, bowling shorter and straighter, targeting the body with aggression. They have bowled strikingly shorter than New Zealand. They also cranked up the verbals. Taking Steven Finn's verbals seriously is difficult for anybody who has sat through his anodyne media conferences. He sneers at the batsman like a city gent offered an unacceptable wine list at a black-tie function. Anderson is more waspish and, befitting his long experience, these days offers his most Anglo-Saxon assessments behind his hand so he cannot be lip synched.

Anderson imagined that he might have held a return catch when Rutherford was 109, but it would have been miraculous if he had intercepted a ball which whistled past him to the boundary. He booted the next ball back to the wicketkeeper in his frustration.

Neither New Zealand opener was perturbed by the rise in noise levels. Fulton was earthy - as stubborn and unresponsive as the treacly brown pitch on which England's quick bowlers flogged themselves to distraction; Rutherford looked more easy going, forever eager to flay the ball through the covers or, markedly in this innings, as both Finn and Anderson could testify, drive resoundingly through mid-on.

Fulton's half-century on his Test comeback was a gritty affair, but his part in an opening stand of 158 was not about to steal attention away from Rutherford, who had all the best lines and who delivered them with gusto. Fulton responded to the applause for his fifty only briefly, like a man who did not want to be bothered. He got out on 55, from 169 balls, driven onto the back foot off Anderson and edging to the wicketkeeper.

Panesar's left-arm spin was unable to provide the control that England needed, Rutherford sailed past 150 as he despatched him twice over long-off. Panesar struck back, bowling Williamson as the batsman tried to fashion a cut against a quicker delivery that was too straight for the shot, but he conceded nearly four an over, as did Finn, who learned to rue Dunedin pitches in a spell with Otago last year and found them just as unsympathetic on his return.

Anderson rallied England with the second new ball, having Ross Taylor caught at second slip as he tried to cut and then, in his next over, bowling Dean Brownlie, whose preference for the back foot cost him dearly as he played a fullish delivery onto his stumps. Anderson should have picked up Brownlie third ball only for Joe Root to drop an inviting opportunity to his left at third slip. England's slip cordon, with Andrew Strauss retired and, in this match, Graeme Swann injured, is not what it was. When Anderson bowls, neither does he have the advantage of his own athleticism as a close fielder.

BJ Watling's misjudgement, bowled first ball as he left a delivery from Stuart Broad, gave England a third wicket in four overs, but a counterattack by Brendon McCullum and Tim Southee - who put Broad over the ropes twice before he swung and missed one - reasserted New Zealand's authority in an afternoon session in which they gambolled along at five an over. They are in an enormously powerful position but they will look at the skies in the morning in trepidation.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close