Quick-fire Hamish Rutherford tames England Lions
New Zealand 184-3 v England Lions
The warm-up act is looking exceedingly comfortable. New Zealand can never expect star billing this season when anything short of a quadruple century or a 20-wicket haul is likely to be dismissed as utterly inconsequential.
But as their left-handed opening batsman, Hamish Rutherford, demonstrated they will occupy their time on the stage with aplomb. They are not here to whistle Dixie. The first tourists of the summer – Australia are apparently next – rattled along at four runs an over against England Lions, finishing a curtailed day on 184 for 3.
The bulk of the runs and the entertainment were supplied by Rutherford, who scored a hundred on his Test debut in February and went along jauntily from the start. He reached his fifty from 55 balls, his 100 from 110, and by the time rain curtailed proceedings a little before tea, he was on 116.
There were 16 fours and four sixes, all of the latter off Simon Kerrigan, the Lancashire left-arm spinner. Kerrigan was unfortunate. Bowling into the wind – a tough call that by captain Joe Root – which crucially meant that Rutherford was hitting with it, he had the batsman dropped on 85.
The ball might have held up as it does when the gusts are strong but Michael Carberry fluffed the steepling opportunity at deep mid-wicket. Then the first of three sixes in an over appeared to have been caught by Graham Onions at long on but a check with what passed for a crowd ascertained that he had carried it across the line.
Rutherford was delighted but slightly wary about his form. "I thought about the Test next week. It doesn't really matter about scoring runs in the warm-up games, it matters in the Test matches," he said. "It was quite hard early on and spiced up again before lunch and it's probably colder than Dunedin is at the moment."
It remains difficult to be sure what to make of these matches. The selectors and the administrators have come to set great store by them as important markers of a player's progress to the international arena.
Indeed, the selectors seem to take their mantra of continuity, continuity, continuity to extremes. Of the Lions side on duty here, three played against the New Zealanders of 2008 vintage: Michael Carberry, Ravi Bopara and Graham Onions. All doubtless are still featuring in discussions, but there has to come a time when players in the second team will not advance to greater glories.
There seems little fondness for these contests among spectators. Doubtless the bleak day had a bearing, but considering that on show were England's second finest and New Zealand's Test team it was a disappointing turn-out. It usually is.
Onions bowled a proficient spell at the start of the day and was rightly rewarded with the wicket of Peter Fulton who walked across his stumps. Toby Roland-Jones took a wicket with his second ball for the Lions at home, a long hop which Kane Williamson swatted to mid-wicket, and then removed a diligent Ross Taylor with something much more deserving.
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