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Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: England - G.C.Small.
New Zealand won by eight wickets, their fourth Test victory over England since the 48-year drought broke in 1978. It was a thoroughly deserved and comprehensive win too, dominated by Hadlee, who reacted to the challenge of facing England on his adopted home ground in his customarily combative manner. He took ten wickets in a Test for the seventh time (a feat achieved before only by Barnes, Grimmett and Lillee) and played an important role in New Zealand's first-innings batting recovery, which in the end marked the difference between the teams. When New Zealand were 144 for five, chasing England's 256, the game was nicely balanced. But on the Saturday England's bowlers were outwitted by the capable set of batsmen masquerading as the New Zealand tail, and Bracewell went on to make 110 from 200 deliveries, only the third century of his life.
For New Zealand, this was further confirmation of their new high standing in world cricket; a triumph for Hadlee's exceptional qualities and the whole team's professionalism, resilience and adaptability. For England, it was yet another dismal game, the eighth defeat in ten Tests, and one that was heavily laden with off-the-field murmurings. Gooch was under pressure to announce his availability or otherwise for the tour of Australia (he said no three days after the game); Gower's inclusion had become a matter for debate because his form and spirits had understandably declined after he had lost the England captaincy; and then, on the rest day, 50 miles away at Wellingborough, Botham broke the Sunday League 6-hitting record. It was like a distant thunderclap.
The game itself was played in murky, storm-laden weather, except on the Saturday when a large crowd had to share the sunshine with a plague of flying ants. And for the first time all summer Botham, released from his ban the previous week, might have played. Instead the selectors hardly considered him and decided to reconstruct their seam attack in a different way. Foster and Radford were dropped, Dilley again withdrew through injury, and Willey was made twelfth man. Pringle and Emburey were both fit again, and there was a fresh new-ball attack of Thomas, playing his first home Test, and Small, playing his first anywhere.
New Zealand weakened their batting, in theory, and strengthened their bowling by bringing in Stirling for Rutherford; and Coney put England in on a pitch which, though it had a little more life than the featherbed used in 1985, rolled out into a pleasant if still sluggish batting surface. However, demoralised England at once started tumbling to Hadlee, who found movement denied to everyone else and took six for 80 in the first innings; en route he rose to third in the list of all-time Test wicket-takers, ahead of Willis, behind Lillee and Botham.
Only Athey and Gower, the two batsmen whose places seemed most in jeopardy, held out for long. Gower brushed aside his problems with one of his most personalised and instinctive innings. There was some debate as to whether he was playing brilliantly or luckily, though he was dismissed only when a delivery from Gray cannoned low and freakishly out of the rough.
At first New Zealand's batsmen found things just as hard. England's attack never looked penetrative, but Small proved an economical and well-organised addition to the attack and the spinners at first proved almost unhittable. However, Hadlee swung the bat as effectively as he had the ball to start the recovery, Gray batted five hours for 50, and Bracewell hit ten 4s in a highly effective percentage innings while the England captain and bowlers went on to autopilot. Bracewell's two previous centuries were also against English bowling; at Auckland in a tour match and at Northampton the previous week. He also gave his team more encouragement by getting Gooch caught close in on the Saturday evening.
Monday was frustrating for New Zealand, with only 75 minutes' cricket possible. But even that was remarkable after ferocious storms over the weekend, and it was time enough for Moxon and Athey to be caught by Smith, who thus passed the national wicket-keeping record of 96 Test dismissals, held by the late K. J. Wadsworth.
Next day England caved in again. Their hopes of a draw effectively disappeared when Gower and Gatting both failed, and the nearest thing to counter-attack came from Emburey, who jerked and jabbed his way to 75 in just over two hours until Hadlee returned with the new ball and stopped the nonsense. New Zealand had almost an hour, plus the final twenty overs, to make the 74 they needed, and they got there with eight overs to spare. Hadlee's Man of the Match award gave the Nottinghamshire crowd something to cheer; England's supporters further afield were beginning to turn distinctly restless. The match attendance was 34,495 with receipts totalling £221,660.