Cricket: Three men in same boat

Andy Farrell in Christchurch sees the mavericks dominate the play
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The Independent Online
Lancaster Park, a cricket ground trying to look like a rugby stadium, has produced something of a non-conformist Test match. The pitch was green and grassy yet refused to seam sideways. The outfield quickened under yesterday's cloudcover, as opposed to Friday's sunshine. A spinner, and thank goodness for Robert Croft, was the leading bowler for a fielding side who had offered the opposition first knock.

Above all, it was New Zealand who dictated the terms when England were supposed to have perfected this script. It should have been no surprise that yesterday's play was illuminated by a trio of well-known mavericks. An hour into the day, Chris Cairns was unaware of the danger into which he was putting Simon Doull when he called for a run to mid-wicket. This should have been the second delivery of a Dominic Cork over, but was a no-ball, which merely emphasises the wilful disregard Cairns showed for his lower-order partner.

Phil Tufnell swooped and in a flash the middle stump was out of the ground. When third umpire switched on the red lamp, there was an incredulous smile on Tufnell's face, let alone anyone else's. David Lloyd raised his arms in salute.

"We have been keen for him to put some energy into his fielding and have a shy at the stumps," said the England coach. "The challenge was for him to get a run-out." The Middlesex man attempted a few repeat performances, but only managed to scatter those backing up to all parts.

For the home side, it was the partnership of 82 in quick time by Cairns and Adam Parore that helped them towards their first-innings target of 350. Both passed 50 to assuage recent problems. Parore was released by Auckland after being suspended over an attitude problem, and no one is queueing up to take him on. After a double failure at No 3 in Wellington he was dropped from the national team. Only an injury to the regular keeper Lee Germon allowed Parore to resume his more familiar position with the gloves and bat down the order. "I spent three weeks on death row and finally got axed on Monday. It is nice to come back as a ghost," he said.

Cairns spent most of the last Test out of action with a hand injury and was implicated, though no one was named officially, in a late-night episode. The Nottinghamshire all-rounder, who has promised to shed his locks if NZ$20,000 (around pounds 9,000) is pledged to the Child Cancer Research Foundation, dropped down a place both in the batting and bowling orders, to good effect.

Coming on as fourth seamer, Cairns strangled Nasser Hussain into giving Parore the first of two catches. A blow-up Mr Blobby could be seen discarded, flat on his back, on the Western Terrace. It was a sad sight, as was England's batting.