First Test Match


At Wellington, January 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. Drawn. Willis, passing FS Trueman's England mark of 307 Test wickets when he dismissed Cairns in the first innings, Botham with five for 59 and 138, and Randall's chanceless 164 played England into an impregnable position after New Zealand had won the toss and taken first innings. But defensive batting of high quality by Martin Crowe and Coney enabled the home side to mount a successful 12-hour rearguard action after conceding a first-innings deficit of 244 midway through the game. Crowe and Coney both made maiden Test hundreds.

The pitch, drenched by a storm four days before the match, gave bowlers some assistance in the first four sessions, though its pace was always slow. Botham and Cairns, who claimed his 100th Test wicket when Lamb was caught, bowled vigorously to extract what life it had. However, poor batting was at the root of New Zealand's moderate first-innings total and England's subsequent collapse to 115 for five. But for faulty catching, indeed, the counter-attack launched for England by Botham, with Randall in support, would not have taken place.

Dropped before scoring, off a sharp chance to Cairns at third slip, Botham survived further lives at 19 and 75. His enterprise paid dividends, however, New Zealand eventually sagging under the weight of his assault. Botham's was his 13th Test hundred, made off 167 balls in 236 minutes with two sixes and 22 fours, and it was the fifth time, a record, that he had performed the match double of a century and five wickets in an innings. His sixth-wicket stand of 232 in 201 minutes with Randall was within eight runs of the English record against New Zealand. Last out, Randall batted for 367 minutes, hitting two sixes and 20 fours in the sixth and second-highest of his Test hundreds. England, when their first innings ended, had 14 hours 35 minutes left in which to press home their advantage.

New Zealand's low point came on the fourth morning when, within 20 minutes of Cook, the bowler, deflecting a straight-drive into the stumps to run out Howarth, Botham defeated Jeff Crowe with a breakback. At 165 for four New Zealand still had a great deal to do to save the match. But Martin, the younger of the Crowe brothers, showed exceptional maturity for a 21-year-old, batting for 276 minutes without making a visible mistake until the stroke that got him out, an edge to slip that gave Gatting his first Test wicket. Crowe's driving, reminiscent of Greg Chappell's in its rifling precision, accounted for most of his 19 fours.

England still looked likely winners when the last day began with New Zealand 335 for seven. But on a pitch playing more placidly with each session, 95 minutes passed before another wicket fell. Coney and Cairns finally batted England out of it with a ninth-wicket stand of 118, a New Zealand Test record against all countries. Coney's 174 not out was only his fifth first-class hundred and his first for seven years. He batted for 488 minutes, which made it, by four hours, the longest innings of his life, while New Zealand's 537 was their highest at home.

© John Wisden & Co