England v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day June 11, 2004

New Zealand's lucky streak

The Wisden Verdict by Emma John

Chris Cairns - on a lucky streak? © Getty Images

Well, it's not often you see that. Okay, so a male streaker's not that unusual. After a beer-fuelled sunny afternoon, he probably wasn't the only person wanting to shed a few layers. And England did have something to celebrate, although doing a three-quarter lap of the outfield waving your kecks in the air is a bit over the top for avoiding the follow-on. What was strange was that there were no burly guards swooping down on him after ten paces.

Thinking it through, it makes perfect sense - stringent bag-searches are carried out at the gate to expose dangerous weapons, and this guy was packing nothing - but the general laissez-faire attitude of the stewards mirrored the atmosphere that hangs around this game.

Only for a brief period after lunch - the first three overs, to be precise - did the match have any idea which direction it was headed. And that was thanks to Matthew Hoggard's steering. First he took a three-part juggler at third man - midriff, left hand, both hands - to dismiss Brendon McCullum.

Then Hoggard took his 100th Test wicket (block your ears to the unkind who say it was only 99-and-a-half, since those super-dooper-ultra-slo-mo replays suggested that Geraint Jones took it on the bounce). Finally he dismissed Chris Martin, who glanced a ball to backward square leg where Vaughan took a slightly less stylish three-touch catch, eventually trapping it in his crotch.

At this point, England had taken six Kiwi wickets in 30 overs for 89 runs. Those in the know were making favourable comparisons with the Adelaide Test in the 2002-03 Ashes, when England were the ones 295 for 4 overnight, only to be bundled out in the morning with nary a whimper. But then came the England innings. And suddenly Andrew Strauss, who has stolen too much from the karma kitty in the last couple of weeks, had a duck to add to yesterday's missed catch.

Which way lay victory? The compass needle oscillated as if a kid was taunting it with a magnet. Martin pulls up in his second over, New Zealand another bowler down - move on three places. Mark Butcher drives loosely to second slip, go back two. Kyle Mills comes on to bowl - you've won the lottery, collect 31 runs.

The only thing that oscillated more than the game was New Zealand's bowling. When Vaughan and Trescothick, and later Flintoff, were tucking in to their second-string (or is it now officially third-string?) attack, the half-volley was the kitchen's speciality. But Chris Cairns would suddenly serve up an offcutter when least expected, as in the 28th over when he went for three fours then trapped Vaughan lbw next ball.

James Franklin was another surprise, if only because he has been missing for the last three years. As a 20-year-old in 2000-01, he took 4 for 26 to seal victory over Pakistan, but has not played since and had to be dug out of the Lancashire Leagues for this match, where he has been playing for Rishton.

Today he shared the new ball with Chris Cairns, and New Zealand have good reason to thank Cairns - his dismissal of Flintoff, who only had to run four times in his boisterous half-century, meant New Zealand won the last play of the day. Perhaps he is on a lucky streak.

Emma John is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer.