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May 19, 2008
Innings of the day
After Daniel Vettori had bailed out New Zealand's batting on Friday afternoon, a Kiwi journalist asked at the close-of-play press conference whether any thought had been given to pushing him up the batting order. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong person to direct such a question to. "What, above me, you mean?" growled the man in the chair, Jacob Oram. And yet, it was a valid observation. Oram has struggled against this English attack - in five Test innings since March, he had made 76 runs with a best of 30 at Napier, and his nemesis, Ryan Sidebottom, had claimed his wicket on each of the last four occasions. And yet today he put such woes behind him, and in conjunction with the rookie, Daniel Flynn, rescued New Zealand from the depths of 120 for 4 (effectively five), with a gutsy and essential 101.
Body blow of the day
On Thursday afternoon, England were a touch bemused by Brendon McCullum's onslaught. In seam-friendly conditions, they plugged away on a full length but found themselves being lamped for 97 of the finest counterattacking runs you'll ever see. The penny dropped at the close of play, and they resolved to treat him with more aggression the next time he came to the middle. So it proved today, with Stuart Broad employed as the baby-faced assassin. McCullum persisted in standing two feet outside his crease, but he was peppered with a selection of well-directed bouncers and eventually pinned by an arrow-straight lifter that thudded sickingly into his unguarded forearm. Thankfully X-rays showed no break, and he was later able to resume his innings, but the breach had been made, and England did everything they could to flood through it.
Shots of the day
Oram and Daniel Flynn, however, held them back manfully in a 132-run stand. Though Flynn remained resolutely one-paced, the tension in Oram's innings dissipated as the afternoon session wore on, and by the time New Zealand had passed the 200 mark there was no holding him back. He climbed into consecutive balls from Broad, flatbatting him through midwicket for four before timing him sweetly past backward point for another boundary, then sent the members scattering as he came down the track to lift Kevin Pietersen into the Pavilion for six. As he approached the nervous nineties, Michael Vaughan called for the new ball and threw it straight away to Sidebottom, but Oram displayed not a shred of nerves as he cut the first ball, straight-drove the fifth, then clubbed the last through the covers to race to his fifth Test hundred.
Ball of the day
And yet, it was Sidebottom who had the final say with an astounding delivery that pitched on off stump, hit the seam, and then swung late as a devastating final measure. Oram had no chance as the ball burst through the gate to clip his off bail, and he was reduced to looking back in bemusement afterwards to work out what had happened. By then, Sidebottom was at his right-hand side, offering a sporting word of congratulation for an excellent matchsaving performance. It was a touching gesture at the end of a good-natured contest.
Tactical substitution of the day
It worked for New Zealand on Sunday, and again for England today. The ball won't do a thing if it ain't got that swing, and so both sides lobbied successfully for a change. And what a difference it made. After eight innocuous overs, Sidebottom was suddenly a bowler transformed - having pushed every delivery across the right-hander's bows, his first attempt with the new ball bent wickedly back into James Marshall's pads, to send him on his way for a ninth-ball duck. Thereafter, survival for New Zealand was an entirely different proposition. It's remarkable quite how much rests on the choice of Duke ball.
Misplaced frustration of the day
Ross Taylor wasn't best pleased when Simon Taufel sent him on his way in the morning session, lbw for 20 in Monty Panesar's first over. The ball dipped late and jabbed Taylor on his toe in front of middle stump, although there was more than just a suggestion of an inside edge - not least from the grumpy manner in which Taylor made his way from the field of play. And yet, inconclusive though the replays proved to be, they did at least demonstrate that the ball, after impact, looped gently into the hands of Paul Collingwood at slip - and therefore he should have been given out anyway.
Forgotten hero of the day
Jamie How is not a man who basks in the limelight. He was New Zealand's captain at the start of this trip, although nobody really noticed because the IPL was in full swing; he made a ballsy 92 in the Hamilton Test victory back in March, but his efforts were forgotten amid the dramas of England's final-day collapse. And likewise today, it was his gritty half-century at the top of the order that set New Zealand on their way to safety. The dramas of McCullum's injury and Oram's hundred condemned his efforts to a footnote, but by surviving the first 15 overs on Sunday evening, as well as the first session before lunch today, he allowed his team to live to fight another day.
Plays of the day from the fifth ODI in Ranchi
Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough