England v New Zealand 2008 / News

Essex v New Zealanders, Chelmsford, 2nd day

Vettori injury clouds NZ progress

Andrew McGlashan at Chelmsford

May 3, 2008

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Essex 251 for 9 (Bopara 66, Mason 4-59, O'Brien 3-46) trail New Zealanders 355 (Marshall 128, ten Doeschate 6-57) by 104 runs
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Iain O'Brien took out Essex's middle order with three wickets © Getty Images
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For the second day running at Chelmsford an injury in the final session overshadowed some interesting action as Daniel Vettori was taken to hospital after a blow to the index finger on his left hand. The cut, caused when he tried to back-up a wild throw from Brendon McCullum, is near the top knuckle, a position that could cause serious issues with his bowling although he only required two stitches.

Until the blow to their captain, it had been a highly satisfactory day for New Zealand as the bowlers enjoyed a useful workout. With little time to impress outside of international matches on modern tours, it is vital players take their chances. New Zealand's two reserve seamers, Michael Mason and Iain O'Brien, are competing to be the first in line should injuries hit the main three and there was little to split them. Mason edged the wicket-taking column courtesy of his late removal of Alex Tudor, but it was O'Brien's afternoon spell that opened up the game.

Depending on the make-up of New Zealand's side for the first Test there is an outside chance one could play, but more likely is that they'll need to ready should Chris Martin, Tim Southee, both rested here, or Kyle Mills break down. They bring different skills to the attack: Mason is a back-of-a-length bowler while O'Brien pitches it fuller and searches for swing. It was this that brought O'Brien two of his wickets as he crashed into the stumps of Mark Pettini and James Middlebrook.

O'Brien's first wicket was Ravi Bopara, who drove a catch straight at short extra-cover after making a delightful 66. Bopara has been one of the stand-out batsmen early in the season - he's not failed to register at a half-century in six innings to date - and this effort began with a perfect on-drive from his first ball. An inside edge past leg stump was his one piece of luck, but the majority of his shots came right out of the middle. Some of his off-driving left the decent crowd purring with appreciation and fifty came off 90 balls in front of England selector James Whitaker.

However, with batting appearing a stroll in the sunshine he played a fraction too early at O'Brien. Bopara has marked 'SL' on the top of his bat to remind him of the tough times in Sri Lanka as a warning not to give his innings away, so this will go down as a missed opportunity.

His dismissal sparked a collapse of 5 for 34 either side of tea. Ryan ten Doeschate, who finished with 6 for 57 after claiming the final New Zealand wicket, was caught at short leg off Vettori. Pettini, the Essex captain, had also played nicely for his 29 but was bowled by a big inswinger from O'Brien. Middlebrook fell in very similar style, having his middle stump uprooted as Essex lost their way.

Mason had taken an early lead in the race between the two supporting seamers during a lively new-ball spell. He dispatched Jason Gallian with out that nipped off the seam and didn't bounce, then had Alastair Cook caught behind. However, with an eye on the Test series Cook at least showed no ill-affects from the dislocated little finger he suffered yesterday. His downfall came in familiar style, as he pushed half-heartedly outside off stump, an area that caused him problems during the New Zealand tour.

Vettori rotated all his bowling options as they tried to get miles in their legs. Kyle Mills hit a good rhythm, removing Tom Westley with a delivery that bounced and took the outside edge, but Jacob Oram looked a little below his best with a number of balls slipping down the leg side. He has a crucial part to play for New Zealand, they missed him dearly during the final Test in Napier.

After Vettori raced off the field - his captaincy is also vital to the team - and the ball grew older and softer New Zealand struggled to wrap up the innings. Tudor showed why he should always have made more runs, adding 53 with Tony Palladino, to reduce the deficit. However, an extended spell in the field will have done the visitors no harm and their batsmen will be eager for another innings as the serious business draws closer.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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