Vaughan and Vettori jostle for honours
For the first time in the history of Test cricket, two captains with surnames starting with the letter V wrote themselves onto the Lord's honours boards on the same day, as Michael Vaughan and Daniel Vettori put the tedium of the past two days behind them with a pair of sparkling performances. Their efforts seem likely to be academic, given how much time in the match has been lost, but as a pointer for the remainder of the series, they were instructive nonetheless. England arrived at Lord's with dominance aforethought but, not for the first time this year, they were forced to limit their ambitions because of the tenacity of their opponents.
"It was a pleasing day's cricket," said Vettori, whose figures of 5 for 69 were his best against England. "I thought we'd played really well because most people predicted England would come out and dominate the day. I thought we didn't start as well as we could, but from thereon in, particularly the way Chris Martin bowled, it set up a good day for us. For them to be only 40 in front, and both sides batted in completely contrasting conditions, is good reward for our day."
It was a Hamilton-lite performance from New Zealand. Just as they had done in the first Test of the previous series, the Kiwi bowlers operated with steady determination and under-rated skill, and a hint of assistance from the surface was all that was needed to squeeze the attacking intent out of England's top-order. That they did so under clear blue skies, instead of the slate-grey mizzle that persuaded England to bowl first on winning the toss, was an added feather in their black caps. When Tim Ambrose fell first-ball to Vettori, England's total of 208 for 6 was identical to that which New Zealand mustered on the truncated first day, which reinforced the notion that England's bowlers had lacked ruthlessness in the formative stages of the game. By the close New Zealand's openers, Aaron Redmond and Jamie How, had shown that they too can survive when the conditions are favourable, by wiping off the deficit in a 40-run stand.
"We played good cricket and stuck at it, and we were on top for the majority of the day," said Vettori. "If the day had gone to 2 for 250, they would have been able to dictate terms, but because we kept taking wickets it doesn't allow teams to force the issue. The first session tomorrow is really important but so were the first 16 tonight. The way Aaron and Jamie handled it was particularly pleasing and a real confidence-boost for the dressing room. If they can go out there and do the same thing then it probably kills the game, because realistically the only way both teams can be brought into it is by us batting poorly."
In the circumstances, therefore, Vaughan's hundred - though technically impeccable - was not the most pressurised he will ever make. But a score is a score nonetheless, and he seemed in a prickly mood as he reflected with satisfaction on his latest bout of doubt-answering. Displaying the same confidence in his own ability that had enabled him to weather England's early jitters on the pitch, he revealed that the familiarity of Lord's had instantly put his mind at rest. Today was his sixth hundred at the ground, which equals the record held by Graham Gooch, so it's little wonder he feels so at home. "You walk in the dressing-room and see your name on the board five times it gives you a huge lift," he said, "knowing that I've done it here before and certainly hope to do it here again."
Vaughan went on to dispel the notion that his hundred had been a long time coming - the Trent Bridge Test against India may have been 10 months ago, but only seven Tests have elapsed in that time. "People talk about form a lot," he said. "I felt going into this game I was in good form in terms of rhythm if not in terms of runs scored. Some people find that very hard to understand, but I was very relaxed today and very disciplined for the first 30 runs. From then on I knew a hundred was there for the taking unless I made a mistake, and I didn't make one."
He might not have had the chance to reach three figures, however, had it not been for the cool support of Stuart Broad at No. 8, whose maiden Test innings on home soil lived up to the billing that such luminaries as Duncan Fletcher have been giving him this week. For Vaughan it was a first opportunity to examine at close quarters the composure and technique of his young colleague, but it was his opposite number, Vettori, who knows best what is required at that pivotal position in the order.
"He's got a good solid technique and he looks like a batsman which is the biggest start," said Vettori. "That's what he does do well. When he comes to the crease he's got a presence, because he looks like he knows exactly what he's doing. He knows where his off stump is and he plays the short ball well. Couple that with his bowling, and it's a nice package, particularly coming in at No. 8."
The day provided an entertaining joust between two sides who are better matched than their egos would have you believe, although Vettori admitted that he wouldn't be taking any satisfaction from his personal performance until he has seen his side safely to the draw. New Zealand won in Hamilton two months ago because they didn't relax their guard for an instant, but they lost the next two Tests because of two critical lapses in concentration. The second occurred when Ryan Sidebottom skittled them in the space of a session at Napier.
"Sidebottom is always in the back of our heads," said Vettori. "He's bowled tremendously well for a long time, and they are going to be constant threats all day." Vaughan, meanwhile, was cautiously optimistic about England's prospects. "It's going to take something special to force a victory," he said, " but last-day cricket can spring all kinds of funny things. I'd like to see the ball swing, but Monty [Panesar] bowled beautifully so could have a big part to play. We'll have to get wickets in little clusters to get them under pressure, but we've certainly got the attack to cause a few problems tomorrow."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo