It might be argued that a match against the side at the bottom of the Second Division is hardly the examination required by a Test side looking to sharpen up their act, let alone what is effectively their second string. Yet even against a Leicestershire team missing six regulars, New Zealand struggled to give their confidence much of a boost.
Leicestershire rested their captain, Phil DeFreitas, the overseas player Brad Hodge and the first-choice wicketkeeper, Paul Nixon, while the pace bowlers Ottis Gibson and Mick Cleary, plus the spinner Claude Henderson, were ruled out by injury. Of the four seamers they deployed, Charles Dagnall and David Masters were having their first outings of the season. Behind the stumps, England's Under-19 wicketkeeper, Tom New, made his county debut.
The tourists, for their part, rested Mark Richardson, their century-maker at Lord's, the all-rounder Jacob Oram and the seamer Daryl Tuffey, while the fast bowler Shane Bond remains sidelined by the back injury that will force him to miss next Thursday's second Test at Headingley.
This offered a chance for the opener Michael Papps and the reserve wicketkeeper, Gareth Hopkins, to make an impression, while there was pressure on Scott Styris, a disappointment in the first Test, to apply some fresh cement to his place.
However, on a slow pitch with cloud cover encouraging the ball to swing, it was Leicestershire's fringe players who seized the opportunity more impressively. Masters removed Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns with successive deliveries, hanging on to a firmly struck return catch to deny the former a half-century and then producing a corker, blessed with both lift and late movement, to have Cairns snapped up by a delighted New.
Nathan Astle will have felt especially disappointed. After a sound match at Lord's, he helped his captain, Stephen Fleming, add 95 for the second wicket and looked poised to confirm his well-being with a first hundred of the tour, only to be trapped lbw just before tea, as Masters began a purple patch that brought him three wickets in 11 balls.
After 14 boundaries struck with growing fluency, it was a careless end for Astle, as it had been for Fleming, who provided the final act of the morning session by flashing outside the off stump to Dagnall and giving first slip Darren Robinson his second success. Styris, in need of a score, could have chosen a better role model, following his captain's lead shortly after lunch by fishing at a ball from David Brignull to give New his maiden catch.
Standing up to Darren Maddy's medium pace, New then spilled a chance offered by McMillan, who had made seven. It was a significant escape so far as that batsman was concerned, McMillan surviving to hit Jeremy Snape's off-spin twice for six on the way to an 82-ball 43.
Getting in only to get out was the pattern of the day for the tourists, Brendon McCullum following suit with a brisk 65, almost at a run a ball, before departing with a rueful shake of the head when the umpire John Holder upheld an lbw appeal by Dagnall.Reuse content