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England arrived at Lord's promising to debunk the theory that they are never more vulnerable than at the home of cricket. They departed in something approaching disarray, having done nothing but support the legend that had built up around their performances at Lord's during the 1990s. In just under four days, New Zealand had levelled the series, wiped out the psychological edge England had gained from the First Test and abruptly brought to an end the honeymoon that Hussain had enjoyed since succeeding Stewart.
To make matters worse, Hussain had to spend most of the second part of the match watching from the balcony, after breaking a finger while trying to stop a ball at gully early on Saturday. Thorpe temporarily took over the captaincy in the field. Hussain's humour could not have been helped by the knowledge that his decision to bat first had contributed to the team's downfall, handing his batsmen the worst of the conditions. He himself had battled through for 61 and got a close-up view of an all-too-familiar lack of application from his team-mates.
England's only change was to bring in Headley in place of Tudor. It was a troubling portent, as Tudor's unexpected batting heroics had symbolised everything that was defiant about the team at Birmingham. His absence, with knee trouble, also introduced a sour note; it emerged that the England management had not been told by Surrey about plans for him to have a scan the day before the Test. Neither county nor country accepted responsibility for the breakdown in communication, another example of the problems in the English game. Angus Fraser was summoned from Taunton as cover, only to be sent back again after he had driven to the end of the M4. New Zealand were also forced into one change, bringing in opener Bell for his fourth Test after the withdrawal of swing bowler Doull, recovering from microsurgery on his knee.
If the tourists had confirmed their reputation for fragility in the opening encounter, their hosts appeared eager to imitate them in the follow-up. In choosing to bat, Hussain had gambled on the Met Office getting it right when they said that the morning's heavy cloud cover would quickly lift. It did not. For most of the afternoon, at least three scoreboard lights were showing, in murk that a few years earlier would have seen a suspension long before it actually came, shortly after the tea interval. The ball moved considerably and, with some moisture in the pitch, did more off the seam than expected, but there are still huge disappointment among the full house, which saw 102 for two eventually translate itself to 186 all out.
Cairns was a revelation, unveiling a slower ball, learned from former Nottinghamshire colleague Franklyn Stephenson, that dipped viciously to cause panic among the home batsmen. His dismissal of 20-year-old Read was the most spectacular, not to say embarrassing: Read attempted to duck what turned out to be a yorker, and fell away as he was bowled. Ably supported by Nash, who bowled better than his figures suggested, Cairns took six for 77. Stewart, trying to save himself from going from captain to non-player in less than a month, made a brave but chancy 50 in 62 balls, which took him past 6,000 Test runs; otherwise the resistance was all left to Hussain, who was last man out after three hours and 40 minutes.
The sun shone on the second day, and the conditions finally started to conform to expectations. With the England bowlers finding little to assist them, the hero was the solid if unspectacular Horne, who stood firm while both Fleming and Astle fell to injudicious leg-glances. His six-hour century, followed by a delightful 54 from night-watchman Vettori, guided New Zealand to a 172-run lead. Even then, England would have felt that all was not lost, as there was the prospect of the pitch turning as the match progressed.
In fact, their second innings was very much the same as the first, and this time they could not blame the conditions, or inaccurate weather forecasts. Butcher, Stewart and Ramprakash were all guilty, for the second time running, of playing one-day shots in a five-day game, trying to force the pace when it was unnecessary. Play was also marked by the tourists' aggression; an excess of verbal abuse surprisingly went unpunished. In an indignant cameo of 37, showing a full repertoire of shots off the back foot, Read laid down a marker about his temperament, and Caddick scored 45, the highest score of the innings and his Test career. But their partnership would have had to be of record proportions to make New Zealand's target anything other than a formality. They needed just 58 and, shortly after 5 p.m. on the fourth day, Bell hit the winning runs, and his team were celebrating their first-ever victory at Lord's. They had struck lucky at their 13th attempt. It took England's record there since 1992 to six defeats, three draws and just one win: against West Indies in 1995.
With football dormant, Wimbledon and the British Open gone, this had been England's chance to bask in the public's attention after premature exit from the World Cup. It appeared they were blinded by the light, and the clamour about the batsmen's failings reached a pitch shriller than ever before.
Man of the Match: M. J. Horne.
Attendance: 92,679; receipts £2,452,537.
Close of play: First day, England 183-9 (Hussain 59*, Tufnell 0*): Second day, New Zealand 242-6 (Vettori 2*); Third day, England 107-4 (Habib 11*, Headley 2*).