Third Cornhill Test


David Norrie

Toss: New Zealand

Even the relief of seeing Sir Richard Hadlee bound up the pavilion steps in a Test for the last time failed to match England's delight at saying goodbye to their worst-ever run in Tests at home. In nearly five years, England had beaten only Sri Lanka, in a one-off Test at Lord's in 1988; their previous success in a series had been in 1985, when Gower's side regained the Ashes. Since then, the Ashes had been retained in Australia and lost at home, and England had failed to win any of their subsequent 24 home Tests in six series. This victory at Edgbaston was also England's first win over New Zealand for seven years, and it provided an exciting finale to a dull Cornhill series which had been disrupted by the weather.

Hadlee's departure and the Test were not the only losses suffered by the tourists. Snedden announced his retirement prior to the match, and the New Zealand captain, Wright, confirmed that this was his final tour. Wright also confessed to his part in New Zealand's first defeat in ten Tests. I was wrong to put England in. No two ways about it. It was a bad decision. Gooch, England's captain, could have faced two decisions as the home team searched for that elusive win. But he was excused both. Wright won the toss; then, with Gooch pondering on when to declare on the fourth day, England collapsed to their lowest total against the Kiwis in England. That gave New Zealand more time to score fewer runs than Gooch had planned, yet ultimately England's batting failure may have eased their path to victory. Hadlee bowed out with an inspired spell after lunch on the fourth day to open up the contest, and those wickets took his final Test tally to 431 as he claimed five wickets in an innings for a record 36th time. Malcolm provided the final breakthrough for England's success, but Hemmings, Gooch and Atherton all played a crucial part in the victory.

Gooch had been reappointed as captain for the India series after the Lord's Test and England named an unchanged twelve for Edgbaston. Fraser, as Middlesex had no game was added to the squad to give him practice following the rib injury which had caused him to withdraw from the Fourth Test in Barbados three months earlier. And when DeFreitas left Wednesday's practice feeling feverish, then eventually dropped out with hamstring trouble, there was speculation that he might make an early return. In the event Lewis, although in some doubt earlier because of knee trouble - as was Stewart, with an ankle problem - came in to make his Test début. England's traditional pre-match dinner was abandoned in favour of a buffet so that the players could watch the soccer World Cup semi-final between England and West Germany. For New Zealand, Franklin had recovered from a dislocated finger but Smith was ruled out with a sore hamstring, giving a chance to the promising nineteen-year-old wicket-keeper, Parore, who had been brought on the tour to prepare him as Smith's successor. New Zealand's last Edgbaston Test had been in 1965, when they lost by nine wickets, but the Birmingham ground had become England's favourite Test venue. They went into this match with fourteen wins and just two defeats in 26 matches at Warwickshire's headquarters.

Rain delayed the start on the first day until 2.45 p.m.; and although play might not have been possible so soon with the Brumbrella covering, this was damaged while being removed and was put out of action for the rest of the match. England responded positively to Wright's insertion and finished the day at 191 for one. The three-and-a-half-hour opening partnership of 170 between Gooch and Atherton was England's best since Broad and Athey's stand of 223 at Perth in 1986-87, and as well as Gooch becoming the eleventh Englishman to reach 5,000 Test runs, both openers passed 1,000 first-class runs for the season. Gooch took the first 40 minutes of the second morning to add the 5 runs he needed for his ninth Test hundred, his first in 26 innings, and his 394-minute 154 (281 balls) held the innings together as England's middle order failed to capitalise on the good start. It was left to Lewis, Russell, Hemmings and Small to help England to their first total of 400 in eleven Tests. New Zealand's attack was made to work hard, but there was consolation in Parore's display behind the stumps, despite his dropping Lewis.

Saturday belonged to Hemmings. The 41-year-old off-spinner entered the match with an eight-year, eleven-Test record that had yielded only nineteen wickets. In the space of 90 deliveries and two hours, Hemmings induced a New Zealand collapse from 163 for four to 249 all out with the spell of six for 33, finishing with the best figures by an England spinner since J. E. Emburey's seven for 78 at Sydney in 1986-87. Hemmings, who had started his county career at Edgbaston 24 year earlier, was helped by slick close catching, a receptive pitch, and his captain's attacking policy; it was the first time he had played three consecutive Tests and the first time he had taken more than four wickets in a Test innings. Malcolm made the early breakthrough as the tourists' front-line batsmen paid for their positive approach, and Lewis took his first Test wicket when Crowe was adjudged lbw. Crowe initially refused to look at umpire Meyer's response to England's appeal, and the umpire had to raise his finger a second time before Crowe, who later apologised, departed. Franklin was again the most difficult to dislodge, his 66 taking four and a half hours and 207 balls, and New Zealand's innings disintegrated just before tea when he and Greatbatch were dismissed. However, despite Hemmings, New Zealand managed to escape the follow-on by 13 runs before the close.

England, with a lead of 186, started positively on Monday, posting 50 in 49 minutes, but the quest for quick runs was exploited by Hadlee and Bracewell. The last seven wickets fell for 29 runs, with only Atherton keeping his nerve in a stay of almost three and a quarter hours. England's four middle-order batsmen had a disastrous Test, managing just 68 runs between them, and while it put Stewart's Test future in doubt, Fairbrother seemed certain to pay the penalty for failing to reproduce his county form for his country. The talented Lancashire left-hander had scored 64 runs in seven Tests and, apart from his undefeated 33 at Lord's, had never looked comfortable in this three-match series. Bracewell became the second New Zealander, to complete the Test double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. The first was, of course, Hadlee, who signed off in style with an eight-over spell of five for 17. Malcolm was just as proud of being Hadlee's 431st and last Test victim as he was of dismissing cricket's latest knight in his final Test innings.

With New Zealand wanting 345 runs for victory in eight and a half hours, Monday's evening session was crucial to both sides. The tourists were 101 runs nearer their target by the close, but England settled for that as they had the wickets of Wright and Franklin. On Tuesday, however, Jones, Greatbatch and Crowe were all denied the big innings needed to give their side a platform for victory, and even the New Zealand romantics had to concede defeat when Hadlee had his stumps splattered by Malcolm. England's fast bowler received good support from Lewis and the England fielders, especially Gooch and Atherton in the slips. Atherton was named England's Man of the Series, while Hadlee picked up the New Zealand award. That was no sentimental gesture; the world's leading Test wicket-taker had called it a day at the peak of his powers.

Man of the Match: D. E. Malcolm. Attendance 33,963; receipts £402,962.

Close of play: First day, England 191-1 ( G. A. Gooch 95*, A. J. Stewart 8*); Second day, New Zealand 9-0 ( T. J. Franklin 8*, J. G. Wright 1*); Third day, New Zealand 249; Fourth day, New Zealand 101-2 ( A. H. Jones 37*, M. D. Crowe 10*).

© John Wisden & Co