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March 13, 2013
England 267 for 2 (Compton 100, Trott 121*) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
When you blunder, as New Zealand's captain Brendon McCullum surely did, by choosing to bowl in the second Test, you must at least hope to succumb gloriously to a feat of derring do. It must be the understated hundreds that are the worst to bear, the sort of hundreds that tell you quietly and repeatedly that you are being punished for your sins, the sort of hundreds delivered for England in Wellington by Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott.
Compton now has back-to-back Test centuries, his labours on his debut tour in India bearing fruit in New Zealand, providing an assertion that he has talent to go along with an abundance of resolve. But it was Trott who made it through to the close, so methodical that he might have been a student of time and motion, breaking a complex task into such simple, logical steps in a manner that his efficiency could not be faulted.
This was a day when the world was engrossed by white smoke rising from the Vatican to mark the election of a new Pope - they even burst into applause at Basin Reserve when a spectator appeared in a Pope fancy dress. After England lost only two wickets in the day, McCullum, like those in Rome, had reason to contemplate cardinal sins.
Compton and Trott might not be the most extravagant double act in the world, in fact they might wear down a crowd as much as they wear down an opposing attack, but they progressed in an orderly fashion which encapsulated the discipline at the heart of this England set-up and New Zealand's attack sensed from an early hour that they faced a day of hard labour. They were fortunate that the left-arm spinner, Bruce Martin, played a successful holding role, 27 overs rewarded with the wicket of Compton, who was still on 100 when he drove at a delivery that was not quite there and edged to Ross Taylor at first slip.
McCullum had won the toss in Cape Town in January and chose to bat, a new captain eager to make a statement, and saw New Zealand dismissed for 45, demolished by Vernon Philander. In Wellington, it felt more like a concession, an acceptance that New Zealand's batting dared not be risked on the first morning against England's pace attack. Things tend to go awry most often for weaker sides, but his logic was faulty on both occasions.
The skies became bluer by the minute, the breeze of the Cook Strait was light and northerly, and a drought in Wellington has left the city with only 20 days' rain. It is going to pour down later in the match, apparently. The pitch had more bounce than Dunedin, but it was comfortably-paced and true, and not a ball deviated for the pace bowlers in the air or off the pitch. At one point a Paradise Duck waddled onto the square to take a look, and all the signs were that paradise belonged to England.
Compton, in particular, looked in confident mood after his breakthrough hundred in Dunedin. There he had again displayed masses of resolution, a batsman of character trying to prove his mettle. Here he revealed a more expansive side of his batting character. New Zealand want sedate batting surfaces to protect their batting and their bowlers must suffer the consequences.
Such perceptions, though, are often unfair to Trott. He reached his century 50 balls faster than Compton - 174 compared to 224 - but because he played so methodically, and because his innings had less importance for an already-established career, he passed almost unnoticed. His hundred came up with such a supremely controlled pull against Neil Wagner, a shot of a batsman ticking over with absolute certainty, that it summed up the understated nature of his innings.
Compton's hundred, by contrast, was reached flamboyantly as he took two boundaries off Wagner in three balls, a square cut on one knee followed by an equally bracing drive on the up through extra cover.
He pulled well against the new ball and relaxed into some pleasing drives, attacking wide deliveries from Wagner and Trent Boult that he would have left in Dunedin. But he was not quite as sound as Trott, surviving a few fierce forays over gully and, on 65, he escaping an lbw appeal from Martin by dint of an inside edge. His most worried look came at 119 for 1, when New Zealand managed a ball change and he briefly worried that it might swing.
England rattled up 40 from six overs immediately after lunch, but then, one suspects, Trott had a word and any over-excitability disappeared. As England slowed in mid-afternoon, most activity came from Trott's facial expressions, furious chewing and rictus grins. Martin turned one past Trott's outside edge, just once, and that was enough to win him deep respect for the rest of the session, 16 overs for 23 by tea.
Alastair Cook had been hailed by McCullum as second only to Don Bradman ahead of the Wellington Test, which historians will scoff was another misjudgement, and Cook was the only England batsman to miss out, out for 17. There was a suggestion that a fullish delivery from Wagner stopped in the pitch a little, but Cook's balance was awry, a failing of old, as he pushed a simple catch to short mid-on. He looked askance at the pitch and later could also be expected to look askance at the laptop replay.
New Zealand's quicks, thwarted by England after leading by 293 in the first Test, would have been forgiven for a secret sigh of anguish that they were back in the field so quickly after bowling 114 overs in the second innings in Dunedin in a forlorn attempt to force victory. It is already hard to imagine them forcing victory here.
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