Second Test


Toss: New Zealand.

To their credit, New Zealand went all out for a series-levelling victory in Auckland, on a pitch which began very damp and remained difficult because of its uneven bounce when it dried. Dropping Thomson, Greatbatch and Pringle from their Christchurch side, and replacing Ian Smith, who had a little-finger injury, with Parore, New Zealand sent England in on winning the toss and soon had them nine for three. Thereafter, however, New Zealand's bowling was so wayward, their fielding so fallible and the captaincy so uninspiring that England were able to escape, and the end result on a bowler's pitch was as emphatic as at Christchurch.

Rain delayed the start until 2.15. Immediately England wickets tumbled, though not so many as should have. Morrison again landed an out-swinger in exactly the right place for Gooch to edge it, and Cairns followed by taking two wickets in his second over: Stewart cover-drove while Smith fell to an outstanding right-handed catch by Parore, who finished with six catches and one miss in his second Test. But Cairns, the most threatening bowler, was given no more than four overs before tea. Afterwards he returned to remove Hick, who had already been dropped twice, but it was too late for New Zealand to make full use of their advantage. When England took their overnight score past 200, thanks to a last-wicket stand orchestrated by Pringle, they had tenaciously clawed their way back on top.

For instead of flattening out as forecast, the pitch remained as favourable to seam bowlers as a traditional Headingley one. The new ball was particularly liable to shoot through or, more rarely, bounce abnormally from the cracks of the loosely compacted surface. Needing a first-innings lead, New Zealand conceded one of 61, following a tremendous duel between Crowe and Lewis. Encouraged by his captain after the First Test to bowl consistently fast, Lewis nevertheless maintained such accuracy that only 11 scoring strokes were made off him in 21 overs (and 13 of the runs he conceded were no-balls). Calling on the stamina which they had built up in pre-tour training, England took five wickets in the last eight overs of the second day and virtually sealed the result.

If the match went momentarily back into the balance on the third morning, when Su'a on his Test début had a promising spell, the afternoon of the third day saw the killer session, as Crowe later described it. From 29 overs, while the ball still moved around, England scored 138 runs. Smith began the assault with square-cutting and off-driving of immense force, to be followed by Lamb - dropped before scoring by Patel at cover - hammering 60 off 47 balls. Of Test fifties recorded in terms of balls, only Kapil Dev (30 balls), Ian Botham and Viv Richards (32 balls), had made one faster than Lamb (33). So demoralising to the bowlers was Lamb's strokeplay and demeanour, and so heartening to his captain, that Gooch went on to his 16th Test hundred after the scratchiest start imaginable. It hardly mattered that Reeve ran out his captain by trying a single to Watson in his follow-through, or that he became immobile himself. England added only 11 runs in the final hour of the third day, when Wright took over from Crowe and brought a surer touch to New Zealand's out-cricket.

At the start of the fourth day, for the third time in the match, three wickets fell at the same score, but England's lead was already unassailable on a still-awkward pitch. Wright and Jones were undone by virtual shooters, Hartland bagged a pair in his second Test, and although the middle order resisted when the ball lost its hardness, England were left with only two wickets to take on the final morning. When Su'a was leg-before, ducking into a short ball which did not rise, it was the 13th lbw of the game, a number exceeded in Test cricket only by the 14 in Pakistan's match with Sri Lanka at Faisalabad a few weeks before.

Man of the Match: G. A. Gooch.

Close of play: First day, England 146-7 (R. C. Russell 23*, D. R. Pringle 8*); Second day, New Zealand 141-9 (M. L. Su'a 0*, W. Watson 1*); Third day, England 272-6 (C. C. Lewis 3*, R. C. Russell 0*); Fourth day, New Zealand 203-8 (M. L. Su'a 36*, D. K. Morrison 6*).

© John Wisden & Co