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March 6, 2013
New Zealand 131 for 0 (Rutherford 77*, Fulton 46*) trail England 167 (Trott 45, Wagner 4-42, Martin 4-43) by 36 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand took advantage of one of the most bungling England batting displays of recent vintage to take a firm hold of the first Test in Dunedin. New Zealand's bowlers were disciplined and willing, but they will have been realistic enough to know that England made a dreadful mess of it, dismissed in 55 overs and never summoning the resolve to counter a sluggish pitch.
The essential docility of the surface was then amplified when New Zealand's openers, Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford, the former given a Test comeback he might have imagined was beyond him, the latter on Test debut and still fresh enough to dream of untold glory, closed within 36 runs of England's meagre total to complete a thoroughly one-sided day.
Rutherford, although reprieved on 52 when Stuart Broad dropped a return catch and missed again off Broad on 64 when Kevin Pietersen failed to lock onto a chance at point, was much more expansive, whereas Fulton clung on grittily in a manner which England had failed to do earlier in the day.
A triumphant start to his home Test debut by the left-arm quick Neil Wagner, who found himself on a hat-trick in his first over, was the catalyst in an extended morning session which saw England lose five wickets. Then Bruce Martin, a left-arm spinner given a Test debut at 32, was showered by celebratory gifts with three wickets in as many overs.
In a week where two better-known New Zealand spinners, Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel, had attracted official opprobrium for a drinking session in Queenstown, Martin must have imagined his first excursion in Test cricket would amount to an occasional spell or two, little more than a mild libation. Instead, he must have felt himself just as intoxicated. He spent much of the day fitting and refitting his New Zealand cap on his head as if he could barely believe it.
Wagner and Martin finished with four wickets apiece, with England reliant upon a ninth-wicket stand of 47 in 11 overs between James Anderson and Steve Finn to reach an entirely inadequate total.
Wagner, who won his place ahead of Mark Gillespie and the injured Doug Bracewell, had managed five wickets at 68.80 in three Tests overseas, but home soil immediately proved more to his liking as he persuaded Alastair Cook to slap a back-of-a-length delivery to point and then with his next ball found a modicum of inswing to have Pietersen lbw first ball to a cagey defensive probe.
Pietersen had been rested from England's T20 and ODI series and, although such official absences are an inevitable part of England's unrelenting schedule, he pushed forward as if he was not sure what side of the equator he was on. It is easy to jump to conclusions, however - he has always been a bad starter. Wagner produced just the sort of delivery, first up, which habitually troubles Pietersen early in his innings.
That was the two England batsmen who had conquered India before Christmas removed at a stroke. Only Jonathan Trott organised prolonged resistance, with 45 in nearly three hours, but even he departed in what, for England, was maddening fashion as he top-edged a sweep at Martin and holed out at short fine leg.
There is often something distinctly unsettling for a batting side when a Test starts on the second morning. The anticipation and energy that is part of the build-up to a first morning is difficult to recapture. The natural rhythms of the game have been disturbed and an underlying sense of dissatisfaction lingers like stale cigarettes in a smoker's room.
But England's habit of beginning a Test series slowly is now ingrained. The Dunedin pitch was as brown as cigarette tar and England coughed and spluttered as if on 60 a day. Any fears of excessive swing or seam did not materialise, but a holding surface was problem enough.
Nick Compton must have been more heartened than anybody by the warnings from Andy Flower, England's director of cricket, that Joe Root's emergence must not be over-hyped. Root stayed down at No. 6 as Flower ignored calls for him to open the innings in preparation for the Ashes with Compton, whose England career has to date come with less drooling, retained at the top of the order.
Both were dismissed by lunch. Compton made a four-ball duck and fell in the third over, playing on to Tim Southee as he pushed hesitantly at a fullish ball and saw it spin back onto his off stump.
It was the sluggish surface that did for Cook. He was dropped on nine by Martin in front of square, reaching for a leg-side clip off Trent Boult. When he tried to carve Wagner over the off side, and mistimed the shot again, Rutherford proved more reliable.
Ian Bell, on 19, survived a New Zealand review when he got a big inside edge against Southee. The only batsman to show much form ahead of the Test series, Bell displayed his usual moments of batting purity, only to descend to batting naivety when Wagner returned shortly before lunch, switched around the wicket and had him caught at short extra-cover.
Neither was there any joy for Root, who played reluctantly at a back-of-a-length delivery from Boult, and dabbed to third slip, another poor shot on a dreadful England morning.
It got no better after lunch. Matt Prior struck five off-side boundaries in two overs then hunted another square cut against Martin and miscued to point; Trott top-edged a sweep in the spinner's next over; and Broad, who would have fallen lbw to Martin second ball if the bowler had dared to ask for a review, yanked a long hop to deep square.
At 119 for 8, England took solace in some tail-end resistance from Anderson and Finn, but Finn also picked out deep square and when Anderson swung himself off his feet, and sliced Martin to point, it summed up England's debacle.
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