New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Hamilton, 1st day March 5, 2008

Honours even despite battling How

New Zealand 282 for 6 (How 92, Taylor 54*, McCullum 51) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary


Paul Collingwood takes a low catch to end Jamie How's excellent innings © Getty Images
 
New Zealand ended a see-saw first day of the Hamilton Test on 282 for 6. Were it not for Brendon McCullum throwing away his wicket in the penultimate over they would have finished with their noses in front after winning the toss on a docile pitch, but as it was England were left to reflect on how they rarely got out of second gear and yet finished in a stronger position than they deserved.

New Zealand's batsmen performed as well as many expected and much better than some feared. The top-order runs came not from the remnants of the old guard but from Jamie How and Ross Taylor, who came into the match with averages of 14 and 11 respectively. Both overcame nervous starts to stamp their authority, and Taylor could yet go on to a maiden hundred tomorrow assuming he finds someone to stay with him. How seemed set for his but came out for the final session a shadow of the confident player he was in the hour before tea, and after two swipes at Monty Panesar he fell to a sharp slip catch by Paul Collingwood.

Were it not for some outstanding catching then New Zealand would be out of sight already. Two of Alastair Cook's gully catches were very good, while the third, a one -handed diving effort to clutch a ball that was already past him to remove Stephen Fleming, was simply awesome. Collingwood added a sharp caught-and-bowled to his slip catch, while Tim Ambrose, whose first day behind the stumps was workmanlike and error free, held a straightforward chance off McCullum.

The grin on Daniel Vettori's face when Michael Vaughan called incorrectly at the toss spoke volumes, and with two spinners in his XI, batting first on a pitch with few demons but which was expected to turn as the game wore on was a formality. By the close his expression showed that he knew an opportunity had been missed.

How and Matthew Bell weathered a far from violent early storm only for Bell, who was finding his touch, to slash once too often at Steve Harmison. Fleming, at the start of his valedictory series, appeared in good touch, cutting and driving with little effort, overtaking How and seemingly set for a big score before his first really loose shot, leaning back and slashing at Ryan Sidebottom, ended in Cook's grasp. England were soon eyeing a brittle middle order when Mathew Sinclair played too early to Collingwood, but How and Taylor checked the slide and took the attack back to the bowlers.


How flicks to leg on his way to 92 © Getty Images
 
After tea, the innings again wobbled and became becalmed, How deprived of his hundred by a combination of nerves, Panesar and Collingwood, and then Oram perishing to a leaden-footed waft. At 191 for 5 with an hour or so remaining England's tails were up, only for McCullum and Taylor to turn the tide in a breezy sixth-wicket stand of 86 in 19 overs. They took on tiring bowlers, both bringing up fifties as the shadows lengthened, only for McCullum to undo much of the hard work by chasing a ball from Ryan Sidebottom so wide that it flicked the toe of his bat. He did well to even get near it.

It summed up New Zealand's day. Too many of the wickets that fell were batsman error - only How could claim to have been dismissed as opposed to contributing to his own downfall - and England's bowlers benefited when on another day they would have been dispatched to all parts.

While none of them were awful, nor did any of them show anything like the consistency needed on a batsman-friendly surface. They struggled for movement early on and latterly control as the ball softened. Harmison remains a worry, and with the selectors opting for a four-man attack, his profligacy allied to feeling the mechanism remains fragile is a constant concern. He struggled to touch much above 80mph and at that pace he presented easy pickings.

As it was, they start the second day knowing that New Zealand's Nos. 10 and 11 are unlikely to hang around and the pitch is unlikely to be as stifling for New Zealand's bowlers as it was for theirs.

They were further boosted by the news that Ian Bell , who took a sharp blow to the right wrist while fielding at short leg early on and was carted off to hospital, had suffered nothing more than bruising. On a day when so much could have gone wrong, England ended intact and in touch.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo