SOME people bet on things they cannot control, be it the horses or the chance of Elvis turning up in the local chippie; some only bet when they can influence the outcome, as in playing a mate on the golf course. The New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford is not fussed - when it comes to gambling, he is a throwback to Keith Miller and Denis Compton. Last winter in Australia, he even attended a post-match press conference with a formbook poking from his pocket.
Yesterday, he gambled with his reputation and his team. With New Zealand leading by 406 runs with five wickets in hand and just over an hour to go on the fourth day of the second Test, he declared. No one has ever made 407 to win a Test match in the last innings - but it is still a fair wicket and, despite their struggle to save the follow-on on Saturday, England's batting is theoretically capable of thrashing New Zealand's bowling.
Such a bold and enterprising declaration, the like of which is rarely made in modern Test cricket, deserves reward, as does New Zealand's performance in this Test so far. It would do wonders for the series and force the England selectors into making the hard decisions about the batting order that they have so far evaded. However, the ease in which Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton knocked off the first 56 runs required in 14 overs last night underlined that it is no formality and all results are possible. Ladbrokes was among those made nervous by the last hour, England, 25-1 at tea, were 4-1 at the close though the draw (4-9) remained favourite (New Zealand were 7-2).
Only two teams, Don Bradman's Australians at Leeds in 1948 (404 for 3) and Bishan Bedi's Indians at Port-of-Spain in 1976 (406 for 4) have scored more than 400 to win a Test. England's highest fourth-innings winning total is 332 for 7 by Percy Chapman's 1928-29 tourists in Melbourne. Then, England had Herbert Sutcliffe (135), Walter Hammond, Jack Hobbs and Patsy Hendren; this time, they have three batsmen in the first six playing for their place, one of whom - Craig White - will be sore from a suspected dislocation of his shoulder suffered while fielding yesterday.
If England do it, Rutherford will be bracketed with Sir Gary Sobers, whose infamous declaration at Port-of-Spain in 1968, when he set Colin Cowdrey's England 215 in 165 minutes, is the only occasion in 45 years that England have won against a declaration.
So a Test that looked doomed to a boring stalemate after two days now has a thrilling climax in prospect. The unlikely catalyst was Dion Nash. Having won selection for this tour because of Chris Cairns' absence, he has produced Test-best figures with bat and ball following his doughty innings of 56 with 6 for 76 as England, with the honourable exceptions of Steve Rhodes and White, batted with either arrogant complacency or paralysing nervousness, both inappropriate attitudes against a game but limited side.
Having spent so long as losers, England seem unable to shake off the supine mood failure instills in a side. Several times in this match, they have had opportunities to regain control; each time, they have let it slip from their grasp. Yesterday morning, it was the rejuvenated Phillip DeFreitas who again opened the door with three wickets in 20 balls.
Blair Pocock, having a miserable recall, was leg before to a ball that kept low; next ball, Rutherford went to one that was even lower, then Martin Crowe inexplicably padded up to a leg-cutter. How extraordinary that the two best batsmen in the game, Crowe and Graham Gooch, should both be dismissed shouldering arms.
At 29 for 3, New Zealand were just 224 ahead but Bryan Young remained calm. Strong on his legs and quick to drive, he confirmed the good impression of Trent Bridge and was bitterly upset when, six short off his century, he was well caught by Graeme Hick at slip, driving carelessly at Peter Such. Such was particularly relieved since he had dropped Young six runs earlier as the opener hooked half-heartedly at Angus Fraser.
Paul Taylor has been so underbowled during this Test that it is amazing how he got into the side, since none of the key selectors seem to favour him. When he finally got on, again after the ineffectual White, he ended Stephen Fleming's attractive innings, but England were unable to follow it up and only their pitiable over-rate constrained New Zealand.
Afterwards, it was all negative talk with the coach Keith Fletcher's insistence that the game must be saved before it can be won remarkably similar in sentiment to his outlook in Trinidad in March when the consequence was the notorious 46 all out.
It is said you should only gamble what you can afford to lose. At one down, Rutherford does not really have the choice.
But England, too, in terms of their long-term progress, have to attempt the target if they are to gain the self-belief that will enable them to take on the best.
----------------------------------------------------------------- LORD'S SCOREBOARD ----------------------------------------------------------------- (Fourth day; New Zealand won toss) NEW ZEALAND - First Innings 476 (M D Crowe 142, S A Thomson 69, D J Nash 59). ENGLAND - First Innings 281 (G A Hick 58, C White 51; D J Nash 6-76). NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings B A Pocock lbw b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . 2 (13 min, 7 balls) B A Young c Hick b Such. . . . . . . . . . . 94 (245 min, 168 balls, 15 fours) * K R Rutherford lbw b DeFreitas. . . . . . . 0 (1 min, 1 ball) M D Crowe b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . . . .9 (22 min, 19 balls, 2 fours) S P Fleming lbw b Taylor. . . . . . . . . . .39 (157 min, 125 balls, 7 fours) S A Thomson not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 (97 min, 76 balls, 5 fours) A C Parore not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 (51 min, 25 balls) Extras (lb4 nb10). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Total (for 5 dec, 297 min, 68 overs). 211 Fall: 1-9 (Pocock), 2-9 (Rutherford), 3-29 (Crowe), 4-144 (Fleming), 5-170 (Young). Bowling: Fraser 15-0-50-0 (nb6) (7-0-25-0, 8- 0-25-0); DeFreitas 16-0-63-3 (nb8) (8-0-29-3, 6-0-27-0, 2-0-7-0); Such 25-5-55-1 (7-3-11-0, 18-2-44-1); White 4-1-21-0, Hick 2-2-0-0, Taylor 6-2-18-1 (one spell each). Progress: 50: 70 min, 14 overs. Lunch: 87 for 3 (Young 48, Fleming 23) 28 overs. 100: 135 min, 31.2 overs. 150: 204 min, 47.2 overs. Tea: 168 for 4 (Young 93, Thomson 13) 57 overs. 200: 276 min, 64.2 overs. Innings closed: 4.55pm. Young 50: 133 min, 88 balls, 9 fours. ENGLAND - Second Innings * M A Atherton not out. . . . . . . . . . . .29 (58 min, 43 balls, 6 fours) A J Stewart not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 (58 min, 41 balls, 5 fours) Extras (b2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Total (for 0, 58 min, 14 overs). . . . . . . 56 To bat: G A Gooch, R A Smith, G A Hick, C White, S J Rhodes, P A J DeFreitas, A R C Fraser, J P Taylor, P M Such. Bowling: Nash 5-0-31-0, Owens 3-1-17-0, Hart 4-2-6-0, Pringle 2-2-0-0 (all one spell). Progress: 50: 39 min, 8.5 overs. Umpires: S A Bucknor and N T Plews. Rob Steen, Henry Blofeld, page 36
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