Toss: New Zealand
New Zealand's first victory in a Test in England, following seventeen defeats and eleven draws, arrived shortly after tea on the fourth day when Coney completed their task of scoring 101 with a leg-side 4 off Botham - the first ball of the only over Willis permitted Botham, so unintelligently had he bowled in New Zealand's first innings. Because England were in almost as hopeless a position after three days as they had been two years earlier in the Test against Australia upon which Botham made such an imperishable impact, only about 3,000 spectators saw the winning hit. But more than 30,000 had watched the game develop and all knew New Zealand's groundwork was well laid. For England, only Willis, who took the nine wickets he needed to become the fourth man to reach 300 in Test cricket, and Gower, with a handsome but unavailing 112 not out in the second innings, had reason to remember it with satisfaction. The toss was admittedly important, enabling Howarth to give his bowlers first use of a pitch that started damp to make it last; but in matters of skill, not excluding team selection, they proved themselves the better side.
It was happy, too, that the man who made the winning hit should have a sense of history: with Willis, charging down the slope at the end from which he took his eight for 43 against Australia in 1981, New Zealand hearts were fluttering when the lanky Coney walked in to bat at 61 for four. Nerves had let them down before in similar positions. A fifth wicket fell, all five to Willis, at 83. But Coney kept a steady head and with Hadlee, watched by father Walter, steered New Zealand home. Later, asked what was in his mind as Willis imperilled what had looked a fairly simple victory, Coney modestly tipped his cap to history by saying: "The main feeling was thinking of all the New Zealand players who have been coming here for 52 years, better players than myself, and making sure that their sweat and effort had not been in vain."
But despite Coney's contribution, and workmanlike efforts by Wright and Edgar in New Zealand's first innings, backed up by a punishing 75 from Hadlee, the match was essentially decided by the performances of the opposing sets of bowlers. In Cairns and Chatfield New Zealand had two whose speed was better suited to conditions than their faster England rivals. By bowling a full length they also gave the ball a better chance to swing. The 33-year-old Cairns, who won the Man of the Match award with his first bag of ten wickets in a Test, and Chatfield, who took five for 95 in England's second innings, were New Zealand's obvious heroes. But no miscarriage of justice would have been required for Hadlee to emerge with comparable figures. Accurate and businesslike off his spry clipped run, he beat the bat innumerable times. His control was exceptional and, generated by a high arm and strong body action, his pace sufficient.
Coney, with slow-medium swing, took three good wickets, including the vital one of Lamb when England were within 36 of clearing a deficit of 152 with eight second-innings wickets standing, and Howarth handled his bowlers adroitly. An injury to Dilley's heel in his second over, combined with Botham's lack of control, gave Willis extra problems. But considering the strength of the breeze that blew from west to east across the ground all match, he took too long deciding at which end Cowans, in particular, was better suited, and never gave the impression of searching for the most telling combination.
Although conditions helped the seam bowlers, New Zealand could be satisfied to bowl England out half an hour before the close on the first day, in view of the fact that shortly before tea there were eight wickets still to fall. The turning-point was a brilliant diving catch by Martin Crowe, left-handed at square leg, which ended a threatening innings by Lamb from a stroke that looked sure to go for 4. Tavaré, who was eighth out, propped up the innings for 295 minutes, while Botham briefly revived memories of 1981 by hitting a 6 and six 4s in 37 minutes. Cairns's seven for 74 was the first instance of a New Zealander taking seven wickets in an innings against England in a Test.
Edgar, hit by Botham on the thigh, was forced to retire hurt after 50 minutes on the second day, returning at the fall of the fifth wicket to partner Hadlee for the final 50 minutes as the score reached 252 for five. Wright, batting 288 minutes, was New Zealand's mainstay, but two run-outs marred his innings. At 52, changing his mind about an off-side single, he left Howarth stranded for Lamb to close in and hit the bowler's stumps. Three hours later, when Cowans had Martin Crowe lbw, another indecisive call by Wright led to the running out of Jeff Crowe by Cowans from long-leg. When Wright, unsettled, left next over, miscuing to mid-off, three wickets had been lost for 1 run in twelve minutes. Hadlee, first with Coney, then Edgar, stopped the rot.
England might still have evened up the game with wickets early on the third day, but Hadlee and Edgar carried their stand to 84, guaranteeing a substantial lead. Hadlee hit eight 4s in 185 minutes and Edgar had batted 282 minutes in two visits to the crease when he was ninth out. England, starting their second innings 50 minutes after lunch with a deficit of 152, looked to have the makings of a recovery when Lamb helped Gower take the score to 116 for two. Then Coney bowled Lamb and by close of play England were 154 for six. Gower's hundred, his first in a home Test since his 200 not out against India four years before, lasted 281 minutes and contained fourteen 4s. The total attendance was 36,050 and receipts totalled £150,000.