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February 28, 2013
New Zealand XI 224 for 6 (Rutherford 90, Brownlie 63) trail England XI 426 (Bell 158, Cook 60, Neesham 4-73, Wagner 4-98) by 202 runs
Hamish Rutherford cemented himself a Test debut in Dunedin next week with a composed 90 against the England XI in Queenstown. However, the New Zealand XI stumbled late in the day to close on 224 for 6 in reply to England's 426, with two wickets falling in the last two overs.
This was Rutherford's first first-class innings since the end of January due to his limited-overs call-up for New Zealand, so it was timely to get back into the rhythm of longer-form batting ahead of a pressurised occasion where, barring unforeseen circumstances, he will partner the recalled Peter Fulton.
He took an early blow on the arm from Stuart Broad and a couple of his drives skewed in the air backward of point - England would do well to keep that area well populated during the Tests - but he struck the ball sweetly with good timing to collect 13 fours and a straight lofted six off Graeme Swann. He fell during the final session, bowled by Chris Woakes, when the ball perhaps did not bounce as expected.
Tom Latham, who is also in the Test squad, did not take his chance in what had been billed as a Test trial although Rutherford was always the favoured option. After partnering Rutherford through to lunch in a half-century opening stand - something the full side have not managed in seven Tests - Latham was lbw on the back foot to the first ball after lunch from Swann. The offspinner bowled economically and claimed his second wicket with the last ball of the day when Jimmy Neesham was lbw.
However, the fight for the final England bowling spot was a subdued affair. Graham Onions' chances of filling the third pace-bowling slot diminished as he ended the day with none for 75 off 16 overs. His disappointing warm-up form in India was a major reason why a call-up eluded him, even when injuries struck the attack, and carrying the drinks awaits him again.
At the moment, therefore, a recall for Broad appears the likeliest path England will take after he worked up the most eye-catching pace of the three quicks on show. Broad was dropped after two wicketless Tests in India, although it is unlikely he was ever fully fit on that tour even before being sent home. In Queenstown, after a slightly tentative first spell, he moved through the gears during the afternoon when he had Carl Cachopa caught low at second slip for his first first-class wicket since the final Test against South Africa, at Lord's in August.
On a slow pitch, Broad got the ball to carry through nicely to Matt Prior and New Zealand's solid reply meant he was able to test the resilience of his heel by returning for multiple spells.
A decent stint in the field will do England no harm ahead of the Test series. There is the expectation that New Zealand's batting won't detain them for too long. However, if the surfaces match this one for slowness it will even the contest, although James Anderson and Steven Finn will provide a cutting edge.
Dean Brownlie, another batsman who will line up in Dunedin, continued his good form from South Africa and the Plunket Shield with a compact half-century. He had one uncomfortable moment against Onions, when he was struck by a sharp bouncer, otherwise he was at ease against pace and spin until being lbw to Jonathan Trott in the closing stages of the day.
Brownlie was one of the few batsmen to emerge with some credit from South Africa after a century in Cape Town. He did not face England in the limited-overs matches so this will have been a valuable innings for him. However, whatever knowledge and confidence he gained against the England bowlers will also work in reverse and Andy Flower will have been taking copious notes
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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