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Toss: England. Test debut: New Zealand - T.E.Blain.
England's attempts to square the series were frustrated first by Wright's grim resolve for seven hours, seven minutes and finally by rain and bad light, which accounted for 15 hours, 40 minutes. On the third day, the only one to pass without interruption, Gower and Gatting, in an unbroken partnership of 219 in 55 overs, had given England a platform from which to advance on the final two days. And on the fourth morning Botham, in his first match of the summer for England, had launched his own spectacular assault - 59 from 36 balls - to put England 101 runs ahead with almost eleven hours remaining. Instead, the weather allowed only six balls more.
From the side that lost at Trent Bridge, England omitted Thomas, Moxon and Pringle. Dilley was again fit: Lamb as well as Botham was recalled. It was England's best-balanced side of the summer. New Zealand, for whom Chatfield was again available, left out Watson and brought in Blain for Smith, who was not fit.
Gatting won the toss and, after a delay of 35 minutes, New Zealand batted on a pitch which looked firm, fast and full of runs. Yet only Coney, with 38 from 41 balls, batted in attacking vein, one lofted drive off Small clearing the mid-off boundary. Had Edmonds, at mid-off, held Gray off Emburey three overs later, New Zealand would have been 115 for five. However, when rain foreclosed after 58 overs, they were 142 for four: Wright 63 not out, Gray 15 not out, Botham three for 36 off eleven overs.
Botham's return to Test cricket was a dramatic one: a wicket with his first ball when Edgar dabbed a lifting delivery to Gooch at second slip. Thus he equalled D. K. Lillee's record of 355 Test wickets. The next ball Jeff Crowe edged low past the left hand of Emburey at third slip, but it was a short-lived reprieve. The last ball of Botham's second over cut back at Crowe and Botham had become the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket.
On the second morning, New Zealand lost three wickets while adding 67 off 31 overs. It was patient work. Wright, who edged a low chance to Botham off Emburey when 90, moved to his hundred soon after lunch, having batted for 374 minutes (291 balls) and hit seven 4s. His fifth in Tests, it was also the first hundred for New Zealand at The Oval. Rain cut two and a half hours from the afternoon, and in the 49 minutes' play that followed the resumption, New Zealand made five scoring strokes from 100 balls and lost Wright, bowled off stump by an Edmonds delivery which was drifting towards the left-hander's middle stump, pitched and turned outside his defence. Blain made a good impression, despite going for 67 minutes for just 1 run on Friday evening and Saturday morning.
England's innings began at mid-day and by lunch they had lost Athey, being tried as an opening batsman. At 62 for three, England were in a familiar position, but Gatting joined Gower for England's best batting of the summer. Gatting's firmly punched drives, cuts and sure footwork against the spin bowlers were complemented by Gower's elegant, powerful and persuasive strokes, which drew out the sun to watch. Even Hadlee was reduced to a sequence of bouncers at Gower which warranted more than simply a private word from umpire Bird. Gower's hundred, in 213 minutes (147 balls), was his fourth against New Zealand and his thirteenth for England.
There was little more than an hour's play on Monday, but in that time England advanced from 281 for three to 388 for four, achieving a first-innings lead for the first time in eleven tests. Gatting set the pace, hitting 35 off 35 balls as he raced to 121, his sixth Test hundred coming in 239 minutes (175 balls) with his third 4 in an over by Gray. In all he hit thirteen 4s; Gower hit fourteen in his 131.
The remainder of the morning was Botham's as, with ferocious drives and hooks, he rose to the challenge of Hadlee and the new ball. When 20, mis-hooking Stirling, he sent up a steepling catch under which the hapless Blain circled for eight seconds. In his next over, Stirling went for 24 (4646.4) as Botham equalled A. M. E. Roberts's record for the most runs by one batsman off a six-ball over in a Test match (off Botham himself at Port-of-Spain in 1980-81). Hadlee went for 22 in his first two overs with the new ball, Botham hitting 17 of them. New Zealand's field placing resembled something set for the last overs of a Sunday League thrash. When heavy rain drove the players off, Botham had hit two 6s and eight 4s in 54 minutes at the crease, his fifty having come off 32 balls. There was no further play that day, and on the final day Botham bowled one over in separate three-ball spells either side of three o'clock.
Wright was named as Man of the Match, attendance for which was 47,434, with takings of £382,972. The Man of the Series for England was Gower, and for New Zealand, Hadlee.