There must have been times during Martin Saggers' 255-mile journey from Canterbury on Wednesday when the Kent fast bowler wondered whether he was wasting his time driving to Leeds. As the 32-year-old made his way up the M1 he would have known that his chances of playing in the second Test were dependent on one of England's bowlers picking up an unexpected injury. At this stage of England's preparations Saggers' sole reason for travelling was to act as cover.
Yet on arriving at the team hotel Saggers' view of his trip would have changed. At the team meeting he was told of Simon Jones' injury and informed he would play in his first Test match in England.
Saggers wasted no time in making an impact against the New Zealanders and proved that the selectors were right to call him into the squad. With his first delivery he produced a beautiful in-swinger which penetrated the solid defence of Mark Richardson and clipped the top of his off stump. Saggers had every right to look elated. Not only had he dismissed the player who had batted for 813 minutes in the first Test at Lord's; he had also become the first English bowler since Richard Illingworth, in 1991, to take a Test wicket with his first delivery in England.
This proved England's only success on a day when rain and bad light dominated. The majority of a sparse first-day crowd had left for the pub when the umpires finally abandoned play at 6.25pm. New Zealand, after losing an important toss, had made their way to 41 for 1.
"I just wanted to make sure that Richardson had to play at my first ball," said Saggers. "I didn't see too much of the Lord's game but it was nice to get him early. I was nervous and Wednesday was a bit of a sleepless night but the openers gave me time to settle in. We could have done with some more time out there, especially with the ball swinging around like it is."
Saggers made a favourable impression during his England debut against Bangladesh during the winter. In Chittagong he took three wickets and held on to a brilliant one-handed catch at fine-leg. But when England went on to Sri Lanka Saggers returned home.
The abundance of exciting fast bowlers in England means that Saggers' opportunities of playing Test cricket will be rare but he appears determined to make the most of this unexpected break.
England, who decided to play Ashley Giles ahead of Paul Collingwood, will be disappointed to have taken only one wicket in the 19 overs they bowled.
With the exception of Saggers, who caused the New Zealand batsmen more problems in the two overs he bowled than the rest of England's attack, the bowlers bowled too short. Matthew Hoggard also swung the ball but the Kiwis were allowed to watch too many deliveries pass harmlessly through to the wicketkeeper.
England should have dismissed Michael Papps on 15 and 20 but Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe dropped catches in the slips. Butcher grassed a low chance at fifth slip off Stephen Harmison and Thorpe shelled a sitter at third off Hoggard.
These chances, and the inability of the bowlers to capitalise on the favourable conditions, could prove costly. The weather forecast for the remainder of the Test match is good and this will make it easier for the "Black Caps" to work themselves into a strong position if they bat well today.
Jones' injury is a major blow to England and another significant setback in the stop-start career of the Glamorgan fast bowler. In the second innings of the first Test Jones was the pick of England's attack even though he only collected one wicket. But it was during this impressive spell that he began to feel pains in his left foot. The 25-year-old bowled 10 overs for Glamorgan against Middlesex on Saturday and had a gentle run through in the nets on Wednesday before he was sent for an MRI scan.
"The scan showed evidence that there is the potential for Simon developing a stress fracture in the same bone that he suffered a stress fracture in during the 1998 season," said a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board's medical team. "As a preventative measure, Simon will be rested from the next two Test matches and his return to cricket will be dependent on the time it takes for the symptoms to heal. We are optimistic, however, that with rest and treatment he will be fit for the Test series against the West Indies later this summer."
Following this injury, the fourth in Jones's seven-Test career, doubts will continue to be raised about the ability of his body to cope with the demands of bowling fast. The Welshman's horrendous knee injury in Australia had nothing to do with his bowling but the side-strain he picked up on his debut, the shin splints he sustained on the A tour of India and this problem are the results of his fragile body saying no to its workload.
England won the toss
New Zealand - First innings
M H Richardson b Saggers 13 60 min, 49 balls, 2 fours
M H W Papps not out 24 79 min, 54 balls, 3 fours
*S P Fleming not out 3 18 min, 11 balls
Extras (lb 1) 1
Total (for 1, 79 min, 19 overs) 41
Fall: 1-33 (Richardson).
To bat: N J Astle, S B Styris, J D P Oram, C L Cairns, +B B McCullum, D L Vettori, D R Tuffey, C S Martin.
Bowling: Hoggard 8-2-21-0 (3-1-8-0 5-1-13-0); Harmison 7-3-13-0; Flintoff 2-1-2-0; Saggers 2-1-4-1 (one spell each).
Progress: First day: Rain delayed start until 1.10pm (min 83 overs). Rain stopped play 2.19-4.43pm (min 51 overs) 36-1 (Papps 20, Fleming 2) 17 overs. Bad light stopped play 4.52pm.
England: M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, M A Butcher, *M P Vaughan, G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, +G O Jones, A F Giles, M J Hoggard, M J Saggers, S J Harmison.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (W Indies) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
TV replay umpire: N J Llong (Eng).
Match referee: C H Lloyd (W Indies).Reuse content