Oram's century sends warning to England

Worcestershire 270-9 & 0-1 New Zealand 379-7 dec

On their last tour of England in 1999 the performance of New Zealand's middle and lower order played a significant role in their 2-1 series victory. On four of the six occasions they batted in four low scoring Test matches Craig McMillan, Adam Parore, Chris Cairns, Dion Nash and Daniel Vettori pulled the Kiwis out of the mire and more than doubled their total.

Parore and Nash have since retired but, judging by the way the Black Caps batted on the third day of their penultimate warm-up match before the first Test, Michael Vaughan looks set to face the same problems as his predecessor, Nasser Hussain.

In McMillan, Cairns, Vettori and Jacob Oram, who smashed a stunning century here at New Road, the tourists possess four players who have scored Test centuries.

Oram's arrival on the Test scene could not have come at a better time for New Zealand. Cairns has announced that he will retire from Test cricket at the end of this series but in Oram the Kiwis have a player who looks more than capable of filling the void.

Physically Oram, who stands at 6ft 7in, is an even more imposing figure than Cairns. His bowling is not quite as aggressive as that of Cairns but he can hit the ball just as far and just as hard. In 10 Test matches the 25-year-old has scored 595 runs at an average of 42.5 and in his last seven innings he has posted a century and two scores in the nineties. Most tall batsmen are strong strikers of the ball when they look to hit it down the ground but Oram is also a good puller. Mark Harrity found this out when he dropped several short during the afternoon.

Each long hop was viciously pulled for four. One short delivery was smashed into the stands with such power that a spectator could not get his pint of beer out of the way in time.

Oram reached three figures when he clipped Andrew Hall through midwicket for four and this brought about a New Zealand declaration on 379 for 7. This gave Shane Bond the chance to claim another wicket without a score being added before bad light stopped play with Worcestershire still 109 runs behind the New Zealanders.

Craig McMillan pushed his claim for a Test place with an aggressive innings of 86. Graeme Hick would have fancied his chances of becoming the first batsman to hit a straight six into the new Basil D'Oliveira Stand at the Diglis End of the ground, but it was McMillan who dumped his occasional spin into the rows of empty seats.

Vettori also livened proceedings up with a quick-fire half century, which came of just 41 balls. Vettori and Oram made a mockery of the conditions, which should have been ideal for seam bowling, and added 99 runs in just 14 overs.

New Zealand's only concern is the form of the Michael Papps, and there may be a case for Stephen Fleming filling his place during the Test series. The New Zealand captain has only opened in Test cricket on a couple of occasions but bats in this position regularly in one-dayers.

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