Third Test Match

England v New Zealand 1969

For the second successive year The Oval Test became "Underwood's Match". The Kent bowler took six wickets in each innings to finish with twelve for 101, the best return by an England bowler against New Zealand. He emphasised the remarkable domination he had gained over the touring team batsmen. Bowlers were generally in command in a game frequently interrupted to by heavy showers which not only broke the continuity of play but restricted the total attendance to about 20,000.

The New Zealanders were unlucky in that the rain usually came at the wrong time for them, but their bowlers gave little away. Motz became the first "Kiwi" to take 100 Test wickets when he dismissed Sharpe in the England first innings. Although England had to bat last they lost only two wickets in scoring 138 for victory, despite clever bowling by Howarth. The main threat to them was always the weather which gave the England players a particularly bad scare on the fifth day. Heavy rain stopped play thirty minutes before lunch with 10 runs needed to win. The forecast was that it might continue for the rest of the day, but luckily for England it soon eased for a resumption shortly after lunch when Sharpe and Denness soon knocked off the remaining runs.

Denness, of Kent, the third of the young batsmen to be tried during the summer, had a nightmare first innings when he stayed forty-five minutes for two runs. But he was impressive in the second, making 55 not out, and sharing an unbroken stand with Sharpe. Denness replaced Fletcher and the other England change was the omission of Knight in favour of Arnold, the Surrey fast-medium bowler, recalled to international cricket after an absence of two years. He bruised a heel early in the New Zealand second innings and made little impact on the game. The tourists had Turner and Taylor back after injury and played the medium paced Cunis, who had run into form after taking a long time to adapt himself to English conditions. Burgess, Hadlee and Collinge were omitted form the team that played at Nottingham.

After Dowling had again won the toss, New Zealand reached 68 for one before a shower lasting twenty minutes in the early afternoon put enough life into the pitch to convince the batsmen that they had little hope of survival against Underwood and Illingworth. Only Turner, who stayed three hours for 53, threatened permanence. When further rain ended play fort-five minutes early New Zealand were in a sorry state at 123 for seven. Hastings and Motz added 27 next morning before the last three wickets fell at 150. Underwood took six for 41 and Illingworth three for 55.

After Illingworth had used the heavy roller, Boycott and Edrich launched the England innings with a partnership of 88. Edrich, missed by Pollard at short-leg when 21, went on to 68, top score of the match. Cunis, a great enthusiast, made the breakthrough for New Zealand. He bowled Boycott and at 118 ended Denness's unhappy stay. Edrich fell at the same score when Howarth turned one out of the rough. When, three runs later, Cunis made a fine catch at mid-off to dismiss d'Oliveira, New Zealand were holding their own, Sharpe and Knott, taking risks under darkening skies, then hit England ahead before rain stopped play sixty-five minutes early.

On Saturday the showers were so frequent that only ninety minutes play was possible before the second New Zealand innings began at 4.30. Once Motz had dismissed Sharpe England collapsed badly to 202 for nine, Taylor, enjoying a spell of three for 6. Snow and Ward hit freely and added 40 for the last wicket to stretch the lead to 92.

There were ideas of a quick finish when Underwood accounted for Murray and Turner with his first thirty-three balls at a cost of 10 runs, but Dowling and Congdon kept their wickets intact over the weekend.

Play began twenty minutes late on Monday because a pitch 20 yards from that being used for the Test Match had been both watered and soaked by rain on Sunday. It had to be covered with matting before New Zealand could resume their second innings, still 21 behind. The fourth day was notable for Hastings' brave attempts to squeeze out enough runs to leave England with a sizeable fourth innings task. A plague of no-balls from the fast bowlers - eleven by Snow and nine by Ward - helped the score along. Congdon was caught behind hooking at Ward before the arrears were cleared. Dowling fought hard, staying nearly three hours for 30, but when he was lbw to Snow. New Zealand were merely 30 runs ahead.

The stubborn Hastings rose to the occasion, making 61 in three and a half hours, but was poorly supported by the later batsmen, who played a succession of rash strokes against Underwood, as accurate as always but never turning the ball lethally. Pollard's failure once more was a particular disappointment.

As it was, the final target was 138. Although Cunis again accounted for Boycott before the close and claimed the valuable wicket of Edrich early next morning, Denness and Sharpe managed to keep Howarth at bay and score steadily off the other bowlers so that victory was obtained with three and a half hours to spare.

© John Wisden & Co