Cricket / First Test: White exposes New Zealand's inferior forces: DeFreitas takes four wickets to vindicate selection while Hick shows safe hands as England make tourists pay for deficiencies

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The Independent Online
New Zealand. .236-8 v England

IT IS seldom wise to jump to conclusions, and all those unkind pre-series perceptions of New Zealand as an ordinary team might now be subject to reappraisal. On yesterday's evidence, ordinary threatens to be something of an over-estimation of their talents.

The pitch was almost as bland as the opposition, and even though 236 for 8 was better than it threatened to be from 108 for 5, New Zealand's batting bore the stamp of a side who have a too deeply ingrained inferiority complex to prevent England winning their first home series since 1990.

It was, therefore, a good time for Craig White to be making his debut, and for Phillip DeFreitas to make yet another entrance through the revolving dressing-room door, his 34th since 1986. DeFreitas was comfortably the most expensive England bowler yesterday, although he bowled well enough at times to provide a clue as to why he was the first to be identified as Ian Botham's natural successor. However, White, the latest to be granted an audition, looked like a man who has researched the part more thoroughly than most.

Brilliant cricketer though Botham was, no one quite had his knack of taking prized scalps with deliveries that deserved to finish up outside the ground, but White's debut wicket with his 13th ball yesterday marked him down as someone with a direct line to Botham's scriptwriter. Botham's first Test victim was Greg Chappell, who dragged an offside long hop on to his stumps in 1977, and 15 years on, White got off the mark with a leg-side long hop which Martin Crowe obligingly gloved to England's new wicketkeeper, Steve Rhodes.

White also took a brilliant diving catch in the gully to dismiss New Zealand's top scorer, Stephen Fleming, which also gave DeFreitas his fourth and 99th Test wicket, and broke the highest partnership of the innings, 60 for the sixth wicket between Fleming and Adam Parore.

DeFreitas will not quite manage to play for as many counties as he has played Test matches, although he is now at Derbyshire after falling out first with Leicestershire and then with Lancashire. The Old Trafford divorce was widely advertised as mutual consent but it in fact had more to do with an irreconcilable breakdown in the relationship.

DeFreitas' selection was a touch curious, not least given Raymond Illingworth's pre- match tub-thump about variety in the attack. In omitting Graham Thorpe from the original squad, and Richard Stemp and Mark Ilott from the 13, England thereby decided that they could do without left-handers of any description in the side.

However, DeFreitas proved to be the pick of England's attack yesterday, even though he put the ball in the right place more often than he did his feet. New Zealand were grateful for additions to the total by any means, and DeFreitas' tally of 15 no-balls gave them a considerable leg- up towards semi-respectability.

He appears, though, to have relocated his missing outswinger, and also moved the ball off the seam on occasions. It was the leg-cutter which produced his first two wickets, both of them to sharp catches at second slip from Graeme Hick. Hick also snaffled a third off Angus Fraser, which made a welcome change from his winter efforts in the Caribbean, when his hands appeared to be coated in axle grease.

Hick dropped half a dozen slip catches in the Test series, all of them off left-handed batsmen, and the theory that he is not the same fielder to people batting the other way around was reinforced when he spilled a difficult offering from Fleming off DeFreitas the ball before Fleming was caught by White.

The only other chance that England missed yesterday was a diving one to Robin Smith in the gully when Ken Rutherford square-cut DeFreitas, the impact dislocating the little finger of Smith's left hand. Hospital X- rays happily revealed no break, otherwise England would now be down to four specialist batsmen.

Having won the toss, New Zealand initially batted with the conviction of men who would rather have lost it, and even Devon Malcolm was in some danger of earning a reputation as a grudging line and length merchant. Malcolm did not, though, manage to drag any extra life from the sluggish surface, and New Zealand's descent to 108 for 5 in mid-afternoon was largely down to their own deficiencies.

Fleming was the one batsman to play strokes of any real pedigree, although New Zealand's reputation as, if nothing else, doughty battlers, came through towards the end of the day. Matthew Hart, in particular, decided that the best way out of a large hole was to try to score some runs, and he and Dion Nash have thus far put on 42 for the ninth wicket.

TRENT BRIDGE SCOREBOARD

(New Zealand won toss)

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings

B A Young c Hick b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

(82 min, 57 balls, 1 four)

B R Hartland c Hick b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

(37 min, 32 balls, 1 four)

* K R Rutherford lbw b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

(98 min, 71 balls, 2 fours)

M D Crowe c Rhodes b White. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

(32 min, 29 balls, 2 fours)

S P Fleming c White b DeFreitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54

(146 min, 102 balls, 9 fours)

S A Thomson c Hick b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

(45 min, 36 balls, 3 fours)

A C Parore c Rhodes b Malcolm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38

(111 min, 83 balls, 3 fours)

G R Larsen c Fraser b Such . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

(49 min, 30 balls, 1 four)

M N Hart not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

(70 min, 60 balls, 5 fours)

D J Nash not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

(52 min, 37 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb5 nb14). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Total (for 8, 369 min, 86 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236

Fall: 1-13 (Hartland), 2-37 (Young), 3-66 (Crowe), 4-78 (Rutherford), 5-108 (Thomson), 6-168 (Fleming), 7-188 (Parore), 8-194 (Larsen).

To bat: H T Davis.

Bowling: Malcolm 14-4-31-1 (4-1-9-0, 4-0-12-0, 6-3-10-1); Fraser 17-6-40-1 (nb6) (7-3-12-0, 10-3- 28-1); DeFreitas 23-4-94-4 (nb15) (7-1-21-2, 7- 3-22-1, 6-0-32-1, 3-0-19-0); Such 19-7-28-1 (3-2- 3-0, 3-1-2-0, 5-0-13-0, 7-4-9-1, 1-0-1-0); White 13-3-38-1 (6-1-21-1, 1-1-0-0, 6-1-17-0).

Progress: 50: 94 min, 21 overs. Lunch: 66-3 (Rutherford 21, Fleming 0) 28 overs. 100: 171 min, 40.1 overs. Bad light stopped play: 3.28pm. Early tea: 137-5 (Fleming 41, Parore 6) 54 overs. Restart: 4.45pm. 150: 254 min, 59 overs. 200: 337 min, 78.1 overs.

Fleming's 50: 136 min, 98 balls, 8 fours.

ENGLAND: * M A Atherton, A J Stewart, R A Smith, G A Hick, G A Gooch, C White, S J Rhodes, P A J DeFreitas, A R C Fraser, P M Such, D E Malcolm.

Umpires: H D Bird, S A Bucknor, M J Kitchen (TV replays).

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

(Photograph omitted)

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