England staged a private bowl out in public today. With three pacemen vying for one place in the First Test — though that, naturally, is officially unconfirmed — they strutted their stuff on the second day of the tour match against a New Zealand XI.
It did not go quite as the tourists would have liked. None of Stuart Broad, Graham Onions or Chris Woakes stated an unanswerable case. Each of them struggled to find an appropriate length regularly and paid the price in conceding a series of boundaries.
At times they were like examination candidates who did not quite understand the question, though they had studied the subject for years. By the close it was Broad, the senior of the trio, who had clearly emerged to win a place at Dunedin next week alongside Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn.
Although he took only one wicket, he grew into the role today. But Broad still has the problem of the chronic heel injury which curtailed his tour of India and is not seeing daylight yet.
He said after play: “This tour has been pretty perfect with the build-up and Twenty20, the shortest format first.
“I had a little bit of tenderness on the first bit of the tour but I got used to it. Building up to 10 overs there was a little bit of tenderness again and I got used to it — I’m hoping this will happen in the four and five-day stuff as well. I couldn’t have been happier and hopefully I’ll feel fine tomorrow.”
In both the afternoon and evening sessions, four spells in all, Broad generated a decent pace and found some bounce. Onions was especially disappointing, as he had been in a tour match in Ahmedabad last November.
Woakes, too, struggled for consistency but he came back late to snaffle the wicket of the Kiwi team’s
top scorer, Hamish Rutherford, bowling him on the back foot for 90. But both of them delivered too many indifferent balls.
The upshot was that the Kiwis initially made more of a fist chasing England’s eventual total of 426 all out than might have been expected.
Although they fell away towards the end they kept England hard at work. Led by Rutherford (right), whose innings of three-and-a-half hours almost certainly confirmed his place in the Test team, they finished on 224 for six, 202 runs behind. Rutherford played with pleasing assurance after an explosive start. In 13 overs before lunch, he and Tom Latham put on 56 from 13 overs. They were greeted with plenty of half-volleys which were duly despatched and the movement which had been present when the new ball was on show earlier in the match had vanished. There were 10 fours as both Broad and Onions erred.
Maybe they were trying too hard, aware of what was at stake.
The spell was broken straight after the interval when Latham was lbw to Graeme Swann.
That virtually clinched the final spot in New Zealand’s Test side for Rutherford, since this pair, too, were in a kind of shoot-out for the last place. Although Rutherford and Dean Brownlie put on 81 for the fourth wicket, England took three wickets in the final session, one to the trundlers of Jonathan Trott, to secure a decided advantage.
The tourist batted on briefly in the morning, allowing Ian Bell free rein and he moved into top gear from the start. In 13.2 overs, they added another 69 runs with Swann displaying his usual joie de vivre with 27 from 17 balls. Bell was last out for 158 from 233 balls.