Luke Wright and Hamish Rutherford return to international cricket in style

After missing out on the Champions Trophy squads, opposing pair make mark at The Oval

Click to follow
The Independent Online

While their international compatriots frolicked gaily in the seemingly freshly watered grass of the Champions Trophy, two of the men on show at The Oval last night were put out to pasture on the infinitely less glamorous English county circuit.

However for all their recent disappointment in being excluded from this month's 50-over extravaganza, England's Luke Wright and New Zealand's Hamish Rutherford marked their return to the international flock in style.

Wright, arguably the most controversial exclusion from England's 15-man Champions Trophy squad, was their undisputed all-round star in Kennington.

In what was a fairly ordinary bowling performance, from admittedly a fairly inexperienced attack, Wright was the pick for England, knowing the value of bowling a good yorker - like the excellent delivery that bowled New Zealand's top scorer, Brendan McCullum, for 68.

McCullum, smashing his runs from just 48 balls, showed the sort of form that, aside from one rumbustious innings at the Rose Bowl, has largely abandoned him since his arrival on English soil in May.

However he was ably assisted by New Zealand's Champions Trophy outcast, Rutherford, with the pair putting on a stand of 114 in just over 11 overs. The left-hander, exiled to Essex while his teammates locked horns with the likes of Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson, started with a bang - helping to dispatch Chris Woakes first over for 19 runs.

The runs kept coming for Rutherford, including three sixes off two overs from England's new spin hero, James Tredwell, and he soon brought up a half-century from just 28 balls.

In the end it was the highly impressive Wright who ended his innings, getting the 24-year-old caught on the boundary attempting one lusty blow into the leg side too many and falling for 62.

However Wright's evening was far from over, and coming to the wicket in the fourth over, after England's openers had made a blistering start, he showed all of the T20 expertise he has acquired during his stints at the IPL.

Wielding a hefty blade, freshly carved and unleashed in anger for the first time on a cricket pitch, he batted both calmly and brutally to demonstrate just why he was so unlucky to have missed out on England's Champions Trophy squad.

His 34-ball knock began with one of its seven boundaries, slapped past extra-cover to race away for four, but he proved equally adept at running quick singles as England's chase gathered some impressive momentum.

Ultimately though Wright's night was to end in disappointment, because while he made his fourth international T20 half-century, he was out in the next over leaving his side needing 63 from the last five.

Perhaps ironically it was the man who effectively took his Champions Trophy place, Ravi Bopara, who found himself charged with seeing England home and just like in Birmingham, less than 48 hours before, the home side fell five agonising runs short to give New Zealand a perhaps unexpectedly thrilling victory.

In front of a full house and on the sort of mild summer evening that could restore anyone's faith in the great British summer it was the type of scenario that cricket administrators fantasise about.

Fittingly in the end it was the spurned swashbuckler Hamish Rutherford who was named man of the match, the magnum of champagne perhaps going some way towards easing the pain of his recent international exclusion, although his former brother-in-exile, Luke Wright perhaps deserved a glass or two himself.