NZ XI v Eng XI, Tour match, Queenstown, 1st day February 27, 2013

Bell, Neesham shine on first day


England XI 357 for 7 (Bell 127*, Cook 60, Neesham 4-65) v New Zealand XI

England's top order was not entirely convincing on the opening day of their warm-up match against a New Zealand XI in Queenstown, but Ian Bell's hundred ensured they posted a reasonably healthy 357 for 7 while Jimmy Neesham was the most successful of the bowlers, taking 4 for 65.

Bell played neatly during the one-day series but before this match spoke of the importance of shifting tempos between the formats. He did as he said, playing out periods where the bowling was tight and picking off the loose deliveries. Although the bowling was inconsistent at times, these were not freebie runs.

His hundred, his second in consecutive first-class innings dating back to the Nagpur Test, came in the final half an hour of the day when he cover-drove his 13th boundary, to bring hearty applause from a small group of England supporters on the grass banks. He then expressed himself with a string of crisp fours. After his problems early on the India tour, with the distraction of waiting for the birth of his child, he now looks a batsman at ease again.

"Some of the one-day wickets we've played on here have been absolutely flat," Bell said. "So to play on a wicket a little bit more in the bowlers' favour was a good test - and it was nice to come through that. There's enough grass on there, a lot left on that pitch, so I think the new ball will be key. There was just enough seam movement all day, and I hope it will be the same throughout the game."

The five frontline bowlers in the opposition have all played for New Zealand at international level and the seam bowling in particular kept England on their toes. Nick Compton and Kevin Pietersen, two of the players who have joined for the Test leg, fell in the morning session during which there was movement for the pacemen on a well-grassed surface.

It may well be a sign of things to come. Like in England there can often be some early help, but as the ball grew softer and the day warmer, batting became easier. At times the main issue for the batsmen was a plane landing at the neighbouring airport. The opportunities for that perfect picture were plentiful.

By opening with Compton, England confirmed that there will not be any changes to the top seven on duty for the Test series. They also rested James Anderson and Steven Finn, leaving Stuart Broad and Graham Onions to compete for the final spot in the bowling line-up. That will be the interest for tomorrow.

Compton's 21 continued the trend from India where early hard work was not built into a more substantial innings. Although on this occasion, he received a decent delivery from Neesham, a nippy medium-pacer, which bounced from a length.

Jonathan Trott played a loose drive to be caught behind and Neesham's productive morning continued when he had Pietersen athletically caught by Hamish Rutherford, who grasped a sharp chance above his head. It had been a skittish innings from Pietersen, who did not middle much during his 36-ball stay, but he does not put much stock behind warm-up innings.

Alastair Cook fought through the tricky first session, picking off loose deliveries with trademark authority, but after lunch was given a life on 56 when Neil Broom spilled a chance at second slip when the ball burst through his hands, struck his forehead and left him with mild concussion and sizable lump. However, Cook could not build on the let-off and edged a cut against Neil Wagner.

Progress slowed as Bell and Joe Root took a cautious approach. Root had 4 off 27 balls before lifting the tempo, showing once again that he can shift comfortably between the formats. By tea he had almost caught up with Bell. The partnership was 97 when Root played inside the line against Carl Cachopa, who has a reputation for a golden-arm in domestic cricket, and lost his off stump.

Matt Prior was bustling from the moment he arrived, getting his first boundary with a sweet clip through midwicket, and scored at a run-a-ball during his stay. It was the most fluent batting by the new arrivals and the type of innings he so frequently produces until he lent back on a cut shot and picked out point to hand Neesham his fourth.

From New Zealand's perspective, this match was meant to be between two bowlers - Wagner and Mark Gillespie - with a spot in the Test squad up for grabs, but both were outshone by Neesham, although he is unlikely to be in Test consideration.

Wagner, though, picked up his second wicket when Chris Woakes got a leading edge to mid-on as Gillespie remained wicketless and expensive, although he was convinced he had Bell caught behind late in the day.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 28, 2013, 9:37 GMT

    @Patrick Hayward on (February 28, 2013, 2:13 GMT) - Take it you've not seen what Woakes has done for Warwicks with the ball over the last few seasons then?

    @jb633 on (February 28, 2013, 0:21 GMT) - The catalyst for losing our number 1 spot was the batting in the UAE where Broad actually bowled very well. I agree they should drop him/not include him if he's looking like he did for most of 2012. But that'sEngland for you these days - they keep players in their side for too long in the hope they'll rediscover their form

  • Andrew on February 28, 2013, 3:17 GMT

    Have to say, I think NZ maybe on a winner with Rutherford.

  • Kevin on February 28, 2013, 2:42 GMT

    I hope Gillespie gets the nod ahead of Wagner for NZ. Wags just hasn't looked the goods at all at this level, whereas big Mark has done enough when he gets there, and might be able to put in consistent spells with a bit more pace. So far though his performance in this mat ch doesn't look good!

    England 426 all out. NZ XI 154 for 3, Rutherford 78 n.o.

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    Why is Woakes even in the squad. If our batting line up with Prior at #7 can't get it done in batting we are screwed. This is test cricket. Play 4 bowlers.

  • Jon on February 28, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    I am begging the England selectors to not pick Broad. The guy is a proven failure against any decent side. It would not suprise me if he picks up wickets in one test in the series, gets walloped in the Ashes and is saved for the winter tour by one decent spell in the last test. I think the bowling of Broad and Bresnan was the primary reason we lost the no 1 status so easily. We can't afford the luxury of having a trundler in the side who doesn't move the ball off the straight. I think the main thing we need to establish in this series is who is going to be our third seamer. We have two quality seamers at present and two quality spinners. Casting minds back to the last ashes we had a host of third seamers in form and we had the luxury of being able to drop our leading wicket taker, Finn. I am more pessimistic about the current situation as I have not seen much from any other seamer. Woakes does not convince me and I think we really miss a fit Tremlett. Broad and Bres should go.

  • Beau on February 28, 2013, 0:11 GMT

    @Nick Macdonald:

    I take your point. My point, however, was that there is nothing gained by having another batmsan or "allrounder" who isn't likely to contribute a big score. NZ always carry a spinner whether appropriate to conditions or not (despite the Hobart win) and they seem set on Bruce Martin, so I included him even though I have never seen him bowl and am dubious of the impact he'll have. Wow, 11 no-balls in a day is pretty poor, Gillespie might need a bit longer. Maybe Wagner is a better pick. I do think he's been unlucky in the Tests he's played so far, and he can hold a bat (as can Bruce Martin, I'm told).

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    Pointless to declare overnight as Broad/Swann need the batting practice, declare at lunch if we make it that far! Onions would be my third choice seam bowler ahead of Broad, if only Broad could put his undoubted talent to use most of the time rather than very little of the time!

  • John on February 27, 2013, 21:19 GMT

    @trav29 on (February 27, 2013, 10:10 GMT) - If you read his comment he says this is a game KP ought to perform in and that KP always seems immune from criticism. He's not saying anything more than that , but it is true that whenever KP does something special it generally gets magnified by posters on here and whenever he fails (UAE for example where his highest score in 6 inns was around 30) it doesn't even get mentioned

    @Nathan Bell on (February 27, 2013, 11:29 GMT) - I'm a big Broad fan but agree with you. If he's not bowling at full throttle he becomes so much less effective and Onions is a better bowler than that version for sure

  • John on February 27, 2013, 21:18 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK - I feel a huge difference between Bell and KP is that KP can look really awful one innings and then go into the next game and absolutely shine and then go into the next game and look average again. Whereas with Bell , you generally get a whole run of great form or a whole run where he looks absolutely clueless. The trouble with KP and even Morgan is you don't know which version will turn up My gripe about Bell is that the selectors seem reluctant to drop him when he's in the latter form because of his contributions when he's been in great form. Feel the same may be the case with Broad. I thought he looked good/sharp in the 1st few T20s but then by the end of the ODI series he looked like he did through most of 2012. But if Bell continues this form then keep him going as a top form Bell is an asset but as soon as the wheels start coming off drop him because then he becomes a liability