England v New Zealand, 1st Investec Test, Lord's

Patient Martin ensnares England

On the first day of his first appearance at Lord's, Bruce Martin span a web that helped give New Zealand control

Nagraj Gollapudi at Lord's

May 16, 2013

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Bruce Martin celebrates his wicket with Brendon McCullum, England v New Zealand, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day, May 16, 2013
Bruce Martin claimed an early wicket and then exerted control over England's scoring © Getty Images
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On Monday, sitting below the visitors' dressing room at the Pavilion End, Bruce Martin, the New Zealand left-arm spinner, crossed his fingers on both hands, wishing he could play at one of the most famous grounds in cricket. As he lived his dream on Thursday, Martin managed to remained focused and grounded while relentless with his line and length.

This would probably have been the most difficult day for Martin. Until Wednesday evening, with the weather forecasts indicating overcast conditions, Martin might have had a good night sleep, only to wake up to a dry and sunny morning and the knowledge that his captain might turn to him. As Lord's opened its gates to welcome a full-house crowd on a morning on golden sunshine, Martin would have been nervous.

England in May is one of the most hostile months for a spinner to operate, what with the wet conditions and a stiff, cold breeze making it difficult to even grip the ball properly. Although he took nine wickets in his first series, at home against England, he could not bowl New Zealand to victory in Auckland. Now, having been used only to the Kookaburra, Martin's challenge was to make the Dukes ball turn. In the warm-up match last week against the England Lions, he could manage just one wicket in damp conditions in Leicester.

But Martin, who made his Test debut at the age of 32, has endured plenty of doubts in his career and remained undaunted for most of the day. Brought on from the Nursery End half an hour before lunch, he was bowling down the slope, which helped him take the ball away from the right-handers. He was perhaps fortunate to get Nick Compton, caught trying to hit over the top in his second over, and then nearly had Jonathan Trott in his next but fluffed a return catch in his follow-through, as the ball swerved on him. But the nerves were replaced by the steadily swelling of confidence. His spell so far is the second-most economical against England at Lord's in the first innings.

As England retreated further and further into a shell, Martin continued to probe with a persistent off-stump line. Martin understood quickly that it would be foolish to try too many variations. Bowling from wide off the crease, he pitched on a fuller length, without offering the space for the batsmen to cut or charge him.

Due to the soggy conditions over the last two days the outfield was wet and Martin used it to his advantage. By bowling slowly, the onus was on the batsman to take him on. If England were waiting for the conditions to get better, Martin wanted to make their wait more frustrating. Such was his control that Ian Bell, one of England's best players of spin, remained muted throughout. Off the 50 deliveries he faced from Martin, Bell could only take five runs as he remained rooted to the crease.

In the final session Martin took advantage of the the footmarks to spin the ball further away from the bat and compound the batsmen's uncertainties. By keeping it tight at one end, Martin allowed the seamers to attack from the opposite side.

"He bowled pretty well," Jonathan Trott, the England batsman, said. "He used the slope and sometimes spun the ball down the hill. But whenever there was a loose ball it stopped on the wicket and there was no real pace on the ball to get punished. I felt it was holding up a bit. Generally balls that run away for two or three were only going for one. I certainly missed out on a few cut shots and that is something we might have to work on."

As the Test grows old the pitch is likely to get softer and Martin's influence on the match is bound to be crucial. He would also be aware of the fact that quality batsmen will wear on his patience. In last over, Martin was bowling at a much faster pace and dropping short, which Joe Root duly took advantage of. Perhaps it was exhaustion but the key to succeeding in Test cricket is to hang in there.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (May 16, 2013, 21:25 GMT)

Certainly did bowl well today. Maybe Swann and Root can bowl in tandem to save red faces from Broad et al.

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