Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: D. L. Vettori.
Having stalled on the winning line in Bulawayo and Auckland, England cruised over it here to record their first away Test victory for two years. The triumph was sealed early on the final afternoon but, in actual playing time, the contest lasted little more than three days, with the weather trying but failing to thwart England yet again.
England played consistently good cricket throughout the match and, after Croft and Caddick replaced White and the increasingly erratic Mullally, appeared at last to have found a combination that could stand them in good stead for more than one Test match.
For New Zealand, the match was a shambles on and off the field. They were struggling from the moment Germon opted to bat and soon found themselves with the kind of problem once associated with England. Four of the players were accused of being out on the town unacceptably late after the second day's play. New Zealand Cricket said three were back just after midnight, which was acceptable, and the other - reported to be Chris Cairns - had been dealt with. The incident was badly handled and the refusal to name names cast a shadow over the whole squad. Add the fact that Allott was accused by a TV commentator of seam-picking (an allegation rejected by referee Peter Burge) and this was a Test New Zealand wanted to forget - quickly.
However, their team changes worked well. Allot sharpened up their pace attack. And, most stunningly, Daniel Vettori, a shaggy-haired, bespectacled left-arm spinner with only two first-class matches behind him, also came in to be New Zealand's youngest ever Test cricketer. He was just 18 years and ten days - 187 days younger than Doug Freeman in 1932-33 - but had shown his ability for Northern Districts against England two weeks earlier, and performed with considerable maturity, more indeed than some of the senior players.
Rain and a wet outfield delayed play on the first day until after tea. Germon won a toss he would rather have lost and then saw his team crash to 56 for six in 30 overs. There was some movement off the seam but swing proved more deadly, particularly against batsmen who fenced at far too many deliveries. Pocock set the pattern with a limp shot outside off stump to give Caddick a welcome-back wicket. Caddick was perhaps the most deserving bowler but Gough was the most effective, and they more than made up for a disappointing performance by Cork. It took England less than 90 minutes next morning to put New Zealand out of their misery, with Gough completing his first five-wicket Test haul since Sydney, two years earlier.
Conditions were now just about ideal for batting and England did not waste them, securing a lead of 80 by the close with seven wickets in hand. Knight's lack of footwork gave a catch to gully, but New Zealand had to graft for further successes. Doull dislodged Atherton with a straight one, and a superb left-handed slip catch by Fleming stopped Stewart when he looked on course for a third successive Test century. Hussain and Thorpe combined effectively, however, until Vettori continued his meteoric rise to fame early on the third morning: he produced a little extra bounce to undo Hussain, and bowled throughout probingly and, so it seemed, nervelessly. But the seam attack was missing Cairns, who had a bruised finger, and Thorpe completed his second consecutive hundred during another century partnership, with Crawley.
At 331 for four, England already led by 207. Then Thorpe was stumped, after five and a half hours, and two more wickets fell at the same score. They added only 52 more as Doull picked up five wickets for the fourth time in his 15 Tests. The collapse did England no lasting harm but, after the near-misses of Bulawayo and Auckland, it was understandable if they felt uncomfortable when heavy rain (and second-rate equipment to combat it) prevented any play before late afternoon on day four and New Zealand then reached 89 without losing a wicket. Finally, the spinners broke through, and three wickets in 14 balls from Croft took England close to victory.
Pocock survived and reached fifty in 239 balls. The dark clouds again threatened to put a dampener on England's final-day party. But the weather granted New Zealand only half an hour's respite and the new ball soon brought four wickets for Gough, two for Caddick and a knees-up for the Barmy Army, whose songs of triumph could be heard as Atherton gave a winner's press conference for the first time in ten overseas Tests since January 1995 in Adelaide.
Man of the Match: G. P. Thorpe.
Close of play: First day, New Zealand 56-6 (N. J. Astle 15*, D. N. Patel 5*); England 204-3 (N. Hussain 60*, G. P. Thorpe 47*); Third day, New Zealand 48-0 (B. A. Pocock 13*, B. A. Young 32*); Fourth day, New Zealand 125-4 (B. A. Pocock 45*, L. K. Germon 0*).