First Test

England v New Zealand 2008

Michael Henderson

At Lord's, May 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Drawn. Toss: England. Test debuts: D. R. Flynn, A. J. Redmond.

Jacob Oram is congratulated on his first Test century against England, England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord's, May 19, 2008
Jacob Oram scored his first Test century against England © AFP

In view of the bedraggled state in which they approached this match, the tourists did well to get away with a draw. Not "get away" as in escape - by the final evening, when Oram was plundering three fours in an over from Sidebottom to reach his fifth Test century, they had secured a draw easily enough; "get away" as in leave Lord's with honour restored, able to engage England as equals. In matters of deportment, they were more than equals. They looked like proper cricketers in their sweaters and caps. England, wearing ultra-white fleeces (supposed to regulate body temperature) for the first time, lacked all distinction in the field.

On the first morning of the match, New Zealand captain Vettori awoke to read his reputation questioned in the public prints, and his players described by his opposite number Vaughan as "workmanlike". Vettori had arrived late on tour, having enjoyed a couple of matches with the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, whose doings cast a shadow over the summer. England players, with Pietersen to the fore, let it be known that they, too, would like to share the financial benefits of the IPL cash cow in years to come. All in all, nobody was properly prepared for the First Test, in body or in mind.

Vettori's late arrival was not the only thing the tourists had to accommodate. Stephen Fleming, their outstanding previous captain, had retired, and Shane Bond had given himself to the Indian Cricket League, so it was a much-reduced team that was obliged to take first knock after Vaughan had won the toss. Play did not begin until 1.20 p.m., but shortly before tea New Zealand had lost half their wickets for 104 and a threeday finish looked possible, even likely.

It didn't materialise, partly because the weather, so beautiful in the days preceding the match, had turned wet and dank, partly because New Zealand showed their impressive fighting qualities. Nobody fought more impressively, or brilliantly, than McCullum, another IPL recruit, who smashed 97 superb runs on that first day, at a run a ball. He hit 13 fours and two sixes, the second when he drove Broad over longoff into the Warner Stand. That was the stroke of a born cavalier. Not even Ted Dexter, in his fearless prime, managed to do that. McCullum's was a wonderful innings, which ended tamely when he was bowled off his pad trying to work Panesar through the on side.

The second day began with Sidebottom wrapping up New Zealand's batting. He swung the ball in and out to good effect, taking four for five in ten overs to maintain his position as England's leading bowler. Sadly the day was marred, some would say ruined, by the eagerness of umpires Bucknor and Taufel to offer the batsmen the chance to come off for bad light, and the eagerness of the batsmen to accept the invitation. There were five interruptions, in light that was never unplayable, and once again cricket was the loser.

Saturday was even worse, as rain, borne by the east wind, sheeted down all afternoon, though some spectators found something to enjoy in the FA Cup final screened on the electronic scoreboards. There was another shower on Sunday, in the form of England's batting. After Cook and Strauss had gone for sixties, there was an unconvincing attempt by the middle order to repair the damage until Vaughan found a partner in Broad. The captain was the last man out for a hard-earned though never less than elegant 106, which gave his side a lead of 42. Some of his on-driving was exquisite, and there were two late cuts off Vettori which belonged to a gentler age. It was his 18th Test century, and his sixth at Lord's; only Graham Gooch had made as many there.

Vettori, nevertheless, emerged as the Man of the Match. Having made 48 good runs in New Zealand's first innings, he bowled quite splendidly on the Sunday, finishing with five for 69. Using flight and guile, he turned the ball, and nobody felt "in" against him, not even Vaughan, who tried to play him boldly and sometimes managed the trick, but finally became his 250th Test wicket. It was an absorbing contest, a real dialogue, between two fine cricketers, and almost made up for the frustrations of the previous two days.

England began the final day with high hopes of forcing victory and, if Strauss had held a straightforward chance at first slip when How was 46, those hopes would have been even higher. Still, when McCullum took a blow on his left elbow from Broad and retired hurt with the score on 120 for four, victory remained possible. New Zealand were only 78 in front, with Oram the new man at the crease: if England could dislodge him in short order, they were almost through to the tail.

Oram, however, would not be dislodged. He batted steadily, then with increasing purpose, as he pounded towards a most entertaining century. By the time Sidebottom bowled him he had made his runs from 121 balls, with 15 fours and a pair of sixes. Having dismissed him for the eighth time in four months, the bowler offered his congratulations as Oram walked off, his job done. Daniel Flynn, one of two debutants in this green touring team, batted nearly three hours and contributed 22 to the stand of 132 with Oram, ensuring that New Zealand could set off for Old Trafford in good shape.

Man of the Match: D. L. Vettori.

© John Wisden & Co.