Cricket: England's fortunes ebb away

England 199 New Zealand 128-2
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THIS TEST match looks to be seeping away from England. So far it has been a far slower process than the one involved at Lord's, but that is because there has been less indiscretion and more application. It has still not been enough, though, and unless New Zealand, handily placed on 128 for 2, lose quick wickets this morning, the visitors will once again be plotting rather than fretting.

England's problems have once again stemmed from poor batting. Their total of 199 was the 13th time in their last 25 Tests that they have failed to pass 200 in their first innings.

With runs so precious, England needed to be relentless when they bowled and fielded. They were not, however, and, when Graham Thorpe dropped Matthew Horne at first slip when the opener was on nought, the home side missed the chance to inflict early damage.

Andy Caddick was the unlucky bowler, though Thorpe's fluffing of a throat- high edge deflated more than the tall seamer. Instead of having the early breach, England were forced on to the back foot as Dean Headley's opening four overs were despatched for 21 runs.

More depressing for the stand-in captain Mark Butcher, as Horne made the most of his let-off, was the lack of turn, and the only time the spinners got it off the straight was out of the bowlers' rough. With no bite, Stephen Fleming and Matthew Bell were able to play fluently without fear of mishap and the pair added 50 before Fleming fell lbw to Peter Such.

Resuming on 108 for 5, England added 91 runs for their remaining five wickets. Mark Ramprakash who made an unbeaten 69, his highest Test score in England, was the principal provider, though he needed the help of Peter Such and Dean Headley to get England close to their projected overnight total of 200.

Such, who batted 51 balls before being dismissed by Daniel Vettori for a duck, even made history, the 72 minutes he spent scoreless at the crease being the longest ever in home Tests.

Since the Lord's Test, England's batsmen have gone from limp wrists to limpets. Nothing wrong with that, especially on an awkward pitch, except that the opposition are not forced to contemplate anything but patience. Coming from a country that takes 36 hours to get to by jet, New Zealanders are patience personified.

They needed to be, for Ramprakash and Such dropped anchor, eschewing easy singles in favour of batting time as 31 runs were added for the ninth wicket. With the visitors adopting the standard though unproven tactic of having an in-out field (in for Such and out for Ramprakash), it was an interesting move, suggesting that the extra wear to the wicket would be more important in the long run than the dozen runs ignored to keep Such, seemingly untroubled in defensive mode, off strike.

More importantly, it forced Ramprakash, who batted 139 balls before his first boundary, to take risks. As Such propped forward and hopped back, depending on the length, his partner played some sumptuous shots. Two successive boundaries from Chris Cairns were class, as was as a cut shot off the same bowler. And yet the relief when he reached 50 was such that his concentration lapsed and he ducked into a bouncer.

Such's contribution brought him a standing ovation. A man who delights in perversity, Such will be pleased that his lengthy duck will bring him notoriety. For the all-time record, though, look no further than the Kiwi's 12th man, Geoff Allott. He batted for 101 minutes without scoring against South Africa at Auckland last winter.

Ramprakash remains a perplexing character. A gifted batsman and athlete, he appears to be in denial over his own talent. Failure is never pleasant when your career relies on trying to avoid it, but the way he bats at Test level suggests he contemplates it more than most. Belief in self is paramount in those who perform, but the Middlesex captain has become so introverted of late that he does not appear to have a self to believe in.

His innings yesterday demanded caution, but in other less tense situations he has seldom been able to find a second gear. Since scoring his first Test century in Barbados 18 months ago, only a 61 against Australia in Adelaide showed glimpses of the player that county opposition have seen year in year out since 1986.

To begin with, he allowed Headley to dominate proceedings, which the bowler did until he spliced a lunged forward defensive shot to Fleming at silly point. Three balls later, Chris Read became Chris Harris's second victim after the wicketkeeper chopped a skidding delivery on to his stumps.

Caddick then struck a six and a four before being run out after a misfield caused him to hesitate over a second run. With wickets falling, Ramprakash, aided by Such's obduracy, took control. Now the off-spinner must set his sights on wickets - and lots of them.

Jon Culley, Page 26


Second day; England won toss

ENGLAND - First innings

(Overnight: 108 for 5)

M R Ramprakash not out 69

270 min, 227 balls, 5 fours

D W Headley c Fleming b Harris 18

71 min, 55 balls, 2 fours

C M W Read b Harris 0

2 min, 3 balls

A R Caddick run out 12

25 min, 21 balls, 1 four, 1 six

P M Such c Bell b Vettori 0

74 min, 51 balls

P C R Tufnell c Astle b Nash 1

32 min, 19 balls

Extras (b6, lb10, w5) 21

Total (109.1 overs) 199

Fall (cont): 6-133 (Headley), 7-133 (Read), 8-152 (Caddick), 9-183 (Such).

Bowling: Cairns 34-12-72-2 (w5) (11-6-28-1, 1-1-0-0, 6-3-8-1, 2-2-0-0, 2-0-5-0, 11-0-30-0, 1-0-1-0); Nash 31.1-15-46-3 (13-9-15-1, 6-1-21-1, 3-3-0-0, 7-1-6-0, 2.1-1-4-1); Astle 11-5-14-0 (4-2-2-0, 5-2-8-0, 2-1-4- 0); Vettori 25-7-35-2 (10-3-14-1, 4-0-9-0, 7-3-9-0, 3-1-2-1, 1-0-1-0); Harris 8-4-16-2 (1-0-2-0, 7-4-14-2).

Progress: Second day: 150: 325 mins, 82.4 overs. New ball: taken after 84 overs at 151-7. Lunch: 169-8 (Ramprakash 42, Such 0) 94 overs. Innings closed: 2.44pm.

Ramprakash 50: 223 min, 190 balls, 3 fours.

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings

M J Horne b Caddick 39

58 min, 58 balls, 7 fours

M D Bell not out 31

169 min, 99 balls, 3 fours

*S P Fleming lbw b Such 38

82 min, 66 balls, 5 fours

N J Astle not out 10

26 min, 24 balls, 2 fours

Extras (lb9, nb1) 10

Total (for 2, 41 overs) 128

Fall: 1-46 (Horne); 2-110 (Fleming).

To bat: R G Twose, C D McMillan, A C Parore, C L Cairns, D L Vettori, D J Nash, C Z Harris.

Bowling: Caddick 11-4-29-1 (w1) (one spell); Headley 10-2-48-0 (nb1) (4-1-21-0, 6-1-27-0); Tufnell 10-3-26-0 (9-3-22-0, 1-0-4-0); Such 10-4- 16-1 (one spell).

Progress: Tea: 40-0 (Horne 34, Bell 0) 11 overs. 50: 72 min, 17.4 overs. 100: 122 min, 29.5 overs.

Umpires: D R Shepherd (Eng) and R B Tiffin (Zim).

Compiled by Jo King