Cricket: `New Zealand showed us how to bowl'

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The Independent Online
NASSER HUSSAIN will be given free rein to stamp his brand of captaincy on the England dressing room in the hope that the qualities that helped his side dig themselves out of a hole yesterday will inspire a first Test victory at Edgbaston today.

England still have to score 205 more runs with one wicket down - no easy task on a bowler-friendly pitch that claimed 21 victims yesterday - but after a desperate situation was overturned by some magnificent bowling Hussain's side believe they know what they must do to launch the new captain's career on a high.

David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said: "New Zealand's bowlers showed us the appropriate way to bowl in the conditions and Simon Doull's effort last night demonstrated how you should bat, by being positive and playing straight."

Graveney was impressed by how Hussain conducted himself. The Essex batsman, once known as something of a self-centred rebel, inspired England to claw back a 100-run first-innings deficit by bowling New Zealand out for 107, giving themselves a chance where none had seemed to exist. "Nasser is very much leading the side and the team talk he delivered after we had been bowled out was exactly spot on," Graveney said. "I'm sure he will do just as good a job in the morning."

Test pitches at Edgbaston have attracted much criticism in recent summers and the spotlight is on this one, with a strong likelihood that the match will be over today. The England camp were keen to avoid negative comments, but Graveney conceded the pitch had been weighted heavily in favour of the ball.

"It is a bowler-friendly pitch," he said. "And it is helpful to all bowlers, too, taking spin as well. But the atmospheric conditions were important too. There was some high-quality bowling and some very good deliveries took wickets. The ball was swinging more than the first day and New Zealand exploited that."

Hussain's day contrasted greatly with that of his predecessor, Alec Stewart, for whom the misery of a wretched match was complete when an inswinging yorker from Geoff Allott bowled him for the second time in the day in the gathering gloom. Stewart also spilled two catches. "Everyone feels for Alec at this stage. Nobody wants to be out in those circumstances," Graveney said.

But he defended the decision to begin the second innings without a nightwatchman, even though only three overs remained. "It became dark but it was playable," he said. "There were only two lights on. But in my experience you would only send in a nightwatchman from the start if there was perhaps just one over remaining."

England's first-innings total was their lowest against New Zealand at home but could have been worse but for the late partnership between Andy Caddick and Alex Tudor. Caddick followed his Test career-best with the bat by taking five wickets to complete a remarkable comeback, his third since he launched his England career six years ago.

Chris Read, the wicketkeeper, set a debut record with six dismissals. "It was the kind of start you want, really," he said. "I like to have a lot to do and on this kind of wicket you are always on your toes."