New Zealand v England: Alastair Cook learns dangers of drop-in pitches and seeking a quick fix

Hosts reach 250 for the loss of just one wicket

Auckland

On a searingly hot day in Adelaide in January, 1959, England asked Australia to bat. By its end the score stood at 200 for one after a long haul of eight ball overs and it is only possible to imagine what Fred Trueman, Trevor Bailey and the cerebral Frank Tyson had to say about the decision of their captain, Peter May. The much more taciturn Brian Statham might have joined in too.

But England were desperate then, 2-0 down at the start of the Fourth Test and needing to win two matches to retain the Ashes. In the event they lost both and the series 4-0, going down at Adelaide by ten wickets after suffering the extra ignominy of following on.

These modern tourists were desperate as well, tied at 0-0 in a series that many fancied would be a cakewalk for them. They had to do something and the early morning grass on a drop-in pitch, plus the opinions of absolutely everybody who saw the surface at close quarters, clinched it for Alastair Cook.

A little under eight hours later, New Zealand were 250 for one and England had had their worst opening day in the field after asking their opponents to bat since May’s gamble 53 years ago. It did not make Cook wrong necessarily but it was hard to see that it was right, and he will have learned that drop in pitches may be different to judge.

This one is barely six inches deep and the usual considerations cannot apply. Pitch reading in any case is a long-discredited science and those who see grass should know that it is often greener on the other side of the fence.

The one wicket to fall in Adelaide was Jim Burke, caught by Colin Cowdrey off Bailey for 66 with the score at 171. England had much greater cause for optimism yesterday when they made the breakthrough on the stroke of lunch. Hamish Rutherford, who had been a model of probity until then, selecting his shots with aggressive intelligence, twice had a swipe outside the off stump. The second time he was unfortunate enough to make contact.

There was to be no other success for England and Peter Fulton went on to make a maiden Test hundred seven years after his Test debut. Fulton, coincidentally, played his first match at Eden Park on the most recent occasion that New Zealand played a Test on the ground.

It was a different shape then, the pitch being an angle and the ground when it was used for cricket resembling a baseball diamond. But it is essentially a rugby ground and the drop-in surfaces they now use run across the centre of the pitch.

The straight boundaries are preposterously and need studious guarding from ball one. Before the morning was out Fulton had badly mis-hooked a bouncer from Stuart Broad which spiralled for six. So little contact did he make that on any other ground he would have fallen into the trap and been caught at long leg. On the other hand, it is possible that on any other ground he would have pulled out of the shot, realising a mistake would be unprofitable.

Fulton is 34 and his time as an international cricketer had looked up, he said that he started this season determined simply to enjoy it and see what happened. He was fully aware that he might not have the opportunity again to show that he belonged in international cricket.

His top score had been 75 until yesterday. If he does nothing else in the international arena from now he can reflect for the rest of his life that he had his day in the sun, that he scored a century in Test cricket against one of the best bowling attacks around.

England were neutered for much of the day, alarmed doubtless that the grass on the pitch was a misleading omen. It turned out, as Finn the wicket taker observed to be there for holding the wicket together.

If Finn and the other bowlers were grumpy they showed no sign of it. Although he was not consulted he was fairly certain that the likes of Jimmy Anderson, the leader of the pack, were involved in discussions.

It has become much more fashionable for captains to insert the opposition these days and recent statistics supported Cook yesterday Of the 22 matches in which England have asked the opposition to bat since the start of the millennium, they have won 12 and only lost two. Yet of the 53 matches in which they have batted first they have won 19 and lost 18.

The game has changed, pitches have changed, mindsets have changed. There is not the same fear of batting fourth, although it still exists in some areas such as the sub-continent. England have regularly won batting second lately whether winning the toss or losing it.

But there is no way round it. It was only the second time that Cook had won a toss in his nine Tests as captain and he cannot by any stretch have been expected to be reminded of something rather unpleasant that happened to England 26 years before he was born.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Voices
Björt Ólafsdóttir is a member of Iceland's Bright Future party
voicesIceland's Björt Ólafsdóttir on her decision to take part in #FreeTheNipple
Life and Style
The Clove Club will charge customers when they book
food + drink
News
Lapping it up: a woman feeds felines at a cat café in Japan
newsThe vast majority of cat and dog 'wet foods' contain items not specified on the tin, study finds
Sport
Andros Townsend and Paul Merson
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat