England v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 5th day May 28, 2013

Rutherford among bright spots for NZ

New Zealand held their own and will have learned valuable lessons from their five-match cross-continental encounter against England

New Zealand don't play long Test series. The best they can do is have two small Test series together. It's a cheat but still means they play a good deal of Test matches against one side without playing anyone else.

Most of New Zealand's Test series are a lot shorter. Against Bangladesh in 2010 they played in a one-Test series. Or as you might also call it, one Test.

This makes their cross-continental Test series against England a fairly rare event. A chance to be tested over a period of time, and not just a micro series.

And it started so well. The No. 8 team in the world, missing two of their most talented players in Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder, starts by ripping out the No. 2 ranked team for 167.

Then, the real embarrassment came when Hamish Rutherford walked in.

If you have never seen Rutherford hit a back foot drive through the off side, you have never seen cricket as nature intended it to be. A nervous trigger movement, followed by a solid base, a dangerously angled bat swung effortlessly, the ball scooting away like it's been fired from a tank.

At Dunedin, the ball hit the off-side boundary repeatedly as Rutherford made 171, outscoring England's entire first innings, and doing it fast. It was an innings of timing, luck and boundaries. It shocked and mocked England.

With it being only a four-day Test due to rain, England were able to draw, due to the strong top-order display from Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Steven Finn. It would also be the only time in the five Tests that Rutherford would pass 50.

England started the second Test by scoring over 400 runs. Their bowlers also came good, rolling New Zealand for 254 in 89.2 overs. Then they did something peculiar: they asked New Zealand to follow on. With rain in the air, they took their chance, but the rain won. New Zealand held on for a draw only two wickets down without facing a ball on day five.

Eden Park was the Peter Fulton Test, with a century in each innings from the tall awkward batsman who likes to whip across the line and looks old enough to be dropping Joe Root off at University.

In the first innings Fulton inspired a total of 443, in the second, 241 for 6 declared. In between, Trent Boult had bowled England out for 204 from 89.2 overs. New Zealand decided not to enforce the follow on.

Unlike England at Headingley, they scored quickly in their third innings; like England, they set a stupidly obscene target of 481. At stumps on day four, with England 90 for 4, they would have been pretty confident of victory.

Instead they ran into a bail that wouldn't come off, Matt Prior and Monty Panesar and drew another match. It was probably the most defensive piece of captaincy from Brendon McCullum in the entire series, and cost him a massive upset victory.

Yet, New Zealand left for England in good spirits. Although, had they noticed they'd forgotten to pack their batting, they might not have been as chipper.

Lord's saw three innings of the Kiwis fighting hard. They could have batted better after limiting England to 232, and they struggled with one partnership in the third innings but they never let England crush them. Several players stood up when they needed them.

With their seam bowling line-up and some of the batting talent they are still to get the most out of, New Zealand should spend the next few years improving their ranking

Most importantly Tim Southee, who a couple of years back looked like he was too slow for Test cricket and could only bowl with a new ball, wrote his name on the Lord's 10-wicket honours board. Southee has showed his quality for a while, but this was a monster performance, it kept his side in a Test, showed how he could make something out of nothing and made him look like a leader. It was very impressive.

Much unlike New Zealand's fourth innings.

They could have been forgiven for turning up in Leeds with no fight left in them. But their first day here showed a side desperate to hold on. Early wickets scared England. Late wickets kept their total within the category of an unlikely-yet-possible win. When Rutherford and Fulton came out looking strong, with the sun on their backs and the pitch on their side, it seemed like they could have one last go at England.

Then it all fell down. Good bowling from England found every single technical deficiency the Kiwis had. Their bowlers found very little respite, other than some slow batting, and ended with Martin Guptill bowling declaration overs.

Their final innings total was the highest in the four they played in England. It was only 220. For the second time in the match, their total was boosted by tail-end slogging.

In five Tests they were the dominant team in two, humiliated in two, and hung on in one with some help from the rain. Considering what happened in McCullum's first series in charge, and what happened to Ross Taylor to get him there, this was a very respectable result for the eighth-ranked side in the world.

With their seam bowling line-up and some of the batting talent they are still to get the most out of, New Zealand should spend the next few years improving their ranking. They should win Tests, and even series, against the biggest six nations. They should look back at this proper Test series as one where they learnt lessons, held their own against a quality side and worked out what they need to improve on.

Even if they don't win as many Tests as they want, their biggest gift to cricket over the next couple of years could be making Hamish Rutherford a consistent Test player.

It's not okay to lose but, if you are going to, you might as well give the world some off-side beauty to look at.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 31, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    when ryder returns nz will be much harder to defeat but hopefully he plays mostly as batsman at 5 in all but 20 20. This will force brownlie to step up his game, show taylor and williamson there is someone who will support them at the wicket and bring mcculum and watling in at a reasonable score to up the score, as we know southee will add between 10-40 runs in quick time so all we need is consistency and nz will be very hard to beat with our improving fast bowler stocks

  • Simon on May 29, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    The NZ batsmen proved to be totally inept again. There is no doubting the talent of Ross Taylor or the lack of ability in the rest of the batting at test level. Williamson has been gonna do for years now. At home they did well but that proved to be as abnormal as it seemed at the time. They're better at swinging the bat so 20 and 50 over cricket is where they can be competitive in batting. The bowling is ok.

  • Mike on May 29, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    New Zealand are actually a declining team. Their next test series is away to Bangladesh where for once it will confirm their downhill and will be surpassed by them especially their vulnerability towards spin. Cricketing times are indeed changing and that's what I love about sports because even the best cannot remain within the 'top' FOREVER :)

  • brendan on May 29, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Some encouraging signs sure, but we've been saying that for a while now...

    Rutherford looks the goods and will no doubt benefit from county cricket, just needs to temper his instincts at times (which NZ batsmen doesn't), espeically so close to the breaks, that 1st innings dismissal was so similiar to Auckland.

    Not flying Ronchi over early with Vettori was a mistake, and so was taking Latham as backup keeper if he wasn't ever going to play. Think McCullums days behind the stumps are but over, hopefully Ronchi gets a chance to impress in the ODI's and McCullum can focus on scoring some runs. Ronchi probably wouldn't be out of place in the test team but would feel for Watling as he has been pretty impressive since taking the gloves. Other option could be to play him in the middle order in place of Brownlie, until (hopefully) Ryder returns...

    Guptill should just concentrate on the shorter forms for a while, talented player for sure but been found wanting recently.

  • Dummy4 on May 29, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    There appears to be consensus that NZ bowlers did an admirable job and could form the foundations of a better side in the future. Not only did they do their job with the ball, but some of them batted with more technique, determination and spirit (not to mention scoring more runs) than the "batsmen". You would think that the next step will be to try out some different faces in the batting line up. But my prediction is that selectors will show their perverse logic by dropping a bowler instead of a batsman. Bowlers always pay the price!

  • Alan on May 29, 2013, 5:31 GMT

    New Zealand's batsmen can simply not be trusted. Time and time again they let their bowlers down, it's a wonder they don't have two dressing rooms. Having said that, there's no one better at home, no one that they've obviously overlooked. What we've got is what we've got, except maybe Ryder but I'd imagine he's no better than a 50/50 chance of playing internationally again

  • VENKATACHALAM on May 29, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    If only Jesse Ryder can recover enough in body and mind to be a Test batter again, If only the Kiwis could lure more Aussie "converts" like Luke Ronchi to bolster their batting, If only NZ gets regular opportunities to play Tests against top nations, if only NZ pays their players enough so that the IPL is not an annual temptation...A lot of ifs, each one not unreasonable to expect. The present NZ bowling line up is the best the country has produced as a group in a long, long time and it deserves all the above

  • Andrew on May 28, 2013, 22:46 GMT

    The big difference between the teams over the five Tests was that England managed to dig themselves out of holes while NZ were just totally blown off the park when they got into dificulty. Both teams got into good positions about the same number of times but I felt that England didn't get out of third gear in NZ and yet still held on to draw a series they weren't concentrating on, whereas NZ with the advantage of home pitches and much more application than England couldn't force a win. When England got home and started to pay attention it was horribly one-sided. In the end England looked like a team that's six places above their opponents, although for long periods they didn't.

  • Dale on May 28, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    One thing I've noted watching this England series, is just how into test cricket England are. I mean between this series and the Ashes is an international ODI series, yet I haven't heard it mentioned. For the English cricket is about "Test" cricket. For NZ, cricket seems to become increasingly about ODI and T20 cricket with a bit of test cricket here and there. The danger is that since we have players that are naturally good at the shorter forms of the game that our test cricket just keeps getting weaker, or in the future we have more players just throwing it in and concentrating on playing in all the various t20 tournaments around the world.