ALTHOUGH the New Zealanders have done nothing here to force the bookmakers to change their minds about the forthcoming Test series, they reached 428 for 5 declared against Essex, which was much the biggest total of the tour. They then removed four Essex batsmen for 175 and should at least survive this particular contest.
In view of their recent form, it was hard to disagree with Ken Rutherford's decision to bat through the second morning to give his batsmen more practice. Barring accidents, however, it condemned the play to all the excitement of a practice match. If Rutherford had declared at the overnight score of 314 for 3, Graham Gooch would probably have responded.
Bryan Young's hundred confirmed his improving form while Rutherford's century was his first sizeable contribution of the tour. In the morning, Shane Thomson - disappointing with the bat so far - reached a good fifty. England's bowlers will want to keep him on the back foot. Adam Parore was hit on the elbow by his first ball and had to retire, but was able to keep wicket later.
Even without injuries, the New Zealand bowling was going to be uncomfortably thin. As it is, Danny Morrison, Michael Owens and Chris Pringle all have fitness problems while Simon Doull has returned home. Morrison is unlikely to be fit for Thursday's Test and the remainder hardly form a viable attack. Heath Davis was as erratic as ever and it would be foolish to consider him for the first Test. Twelve runs came off his first over to Gooch - a massive square cut and four no-balls, which nowadays counts two each - and the 50 came up in 11 overs.
Dion Nash, who has recovered from a side strain, had a good workout and would be an adequate third seamer if he had a penetrative new-ball attack in front of him.
At least Gavin Larsen, the vice-captain, is fully fit and was reasonably tidy at medium pace even if one cannot see him making much impression in a Test. The two spinners, Matthew Hart and Thomson, were commendably accurate but New Zealand's batsmen will still need to score a lot of runs as an insurance policy in Nottingham.Reuse content