Bank Holiday, sun shining, tourists in town, what joy. Back in the day, grounds were full with all those elements in place. Not now, and in truth not for decades during which time any visit by any country on whatever day of the week has become at best a minor inconvenience for all concerned and a chance for senior players to have time off. Poor lambs.
New Zealand defeated Derbyshire by 107 runs yesterday, a sterling start to their 16th tour of England. It was enjoyable stuff for what was a reasonable, if not capacity-nudging, attendance and it will have done the tourists much more good than their opponents who are bottom of the First Division and have now lost four out of their five first-class matches this summer.
The fascination was at least two fold. Naturally, there was the prospect of seeing if Derbyshire could score the 335 they needed to win, which did not survive lunch. And there was the continuing contest within a contest featuring the Kiwi fast bowlers, Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell for a place in the Test team.
Wagner is the man in possession, though only by virtue of Bracewell's singular injury, a cut to his foot after a party at his house when he was sweeping up glass. Bracewell probably offers a little more in terms of bounce and swing but Wagner is one of those whole-hearted bowlers for whom every ball is a performance demanding his utmost concentration and attention – a bowler's bowler.
His intensity was in danger of overwhelming him when he threw the ball at the stumps with Wayne Madsen out of his ground while backing up and knocked the bat from his hand. The umpires had a quiet word with Kane Williamson, the acting captain, and Williamson had a quiet word with Wagner, probably along the lines of: "Save it for the Test match."
Wagner said: "I have a lot of pride in what I do and every ball I run in and compete to be in the battle and look for a little battle. It keeps me in focus. Sometimes if you get a bit lazy and you're going through the motions I do try and pick on someone and get myself into the game. If you mess around he hits you for four you look like a knob. I'm probably the most hated guy to play against." Maybe, but he is probably a captain's dream.
By the end of Derbyshire's second innings, Bracewell had 7 for 84 in the match, Wagner 8 for 78 including 5 for 45 in the second innings. If Bracewell had nosed in front the previous day, Wagner had made up some ground. The fact that Wagner bowls left-handed may not help.
All sides would, so to speak, give their right arm for a left-arm seam bowler. But with the rapidly progressing Trent Boult already in their side, the Kiwis may think that two is one too many, especially if it gave Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner a chance to bowl into their rough.
Derbyshire did not play as though their lives depended on it. There were too many loose shots and while Dan Redfern's 50 contained pleasant shots both sides of the wicket, it ended with a pretty loose drive. New Zealand looked the part and they will know a little more about their chances when they meet England Lions on Thursday.Reuse content