Cricket: Such and Hick display great control: England's spinners come into their own during first Test against New Zealand - Henry Blofeld is entranced by an entertaining and enlightening duel on an old-fashioned pitch

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The Independent Online
RAY ILLINGWORTH, England's new chairman of selectors, has said that he wants to see his side take the field with an attack which incorporates both spin and seam. It was particularly entertaining and instructive to see the two off- spinners, Peter Such and Graeme Hick, bowling together on the third afternoon.

In a sense this has been an old-fashioned pitch simply because, after being full of runs for the first half of the match, it began to take spin as it became worn. It was an excellent surface in that it underlined the need for a balanced attack and not one that is top-heavy with seam.

It was entertaining because when a match develops along the lines of this one, the third innings is always likely to become a war of attrition. When this is conducted by seam bowlers of interminable run- ups, the game usually becomes very boring.

It was instructive because it provided the chance to see how adaptable the off-spinners are. When Martin Crowe and Stephen Fleming were batting together, they were bowling over the wicket to the right-handed Crowe and round the wicket to the left-handed Fleming.

The constant switching with every single severely tests a bowler's control, for he is all the time having to change the line of his attack. One moment he is bowling over the wicket, pitching the ball outside the off stump turning it into the right-hander; the next, from round the wicket, he is trying to pitch on or around the left- hander's off stump turning the ball away from the bat.

With England's massive lead behind them, the bowler's job was preferable to the batsman's and both bowled well. They allowed Crowe no freedom apart from the odd square cut, which was the best they could hope to do against such a fine player on a slow pitch which put a premium on a tight length.

It was different against Fleming, who is inexperienced and found additional problems with the ball pitching in the rough and leaving him. His short innings should have given him much to think about for this is a problem he will meet again and again, and if he is to fulfil his talent he must learn to cope with it.

Understandably he was a picture of uncertainty, not trusting himself to use his long reach to get to the pitch of the ball and kill the spin. His thinking and therefore his footwork kept him in a perpetual no man's land, neither right back or fully forward, and it was inevitable that he should be out as he was, caught in the gully propping half forward.