Michael Vaughan has endured enough injuries in his short career to be given a permanent entry in The Lancet, though that misfortune has not stopped him making runs when he has needed to. With just four days to go before the opening Test against New Zealand, he swapped his sick note with an ultimatum to the selectors, after scoring 156 against a Canterbury side containing bowlers with Test experience.
Since his debut against South Africa at the Wanderers in 1999, when he came in to face a hat-trick with the score 2 for 4, Vaughan has missed 15 of the 28 Test matches played. Like his Yorkshire team-mate Darren Gough, who has just undergone an arthroscopy on his right knee that will keep him out of the game for five weeks, missing serious cricket worries him and his effort here was obviously played with that in mind.
He did give one chance, on 82, when the wicketkeeper, Gareth Hopkins, missed a leg-side stumping after the off-spinner Paul Wiseman fired one past his pads. That slice of fortune aside, he looked more assured than the other England batsman, no small feat considering he is still suffering from a sore right shoulder injured during the one-day series.
"It's still got a fair way to go before I can throw properly, but the shoulder is fine to bat and I felt free to play any shot out there," said Vaughan. "It won't stop me playing in the Test if I'm picked and I hope to have put pressure on the selectors. That was my aim and I felt in good touch."
Opening with Mark Butcher, who fell for 39 after poking a rising ball from the fast bowler Wade Cornelius to gully, Vaughan cut a contrasting figure with his captain, Nasser Hussain, who began skittishly enough to keep all the bowlers interested.
While his captain scratched about like a dyspeptic hen, Vaughan smote the wayward Cornelius with unerring strokes to most parts of this pretty ground. Certainly, the Old English Pickled Egg stall and the Bedouin kebab trolley just beyond the cover boundary were peppered whenever the bowler dropped short, or was full and wide, which was often.
If it was Wally Hammond at one end and Donald Duck at the other, Hussain eventually raised his game to something approaching his partner's. Unusually for the captain, his contributions to the 50 and 100 partnerships were seven and 31 respectively, modest for one refreshed by a week's break.
The pair went on to add 207 for the second wicket before Vaughan fell to a brilliant catch by Chris Harris, whose reputation as one of the finest fielders in world cricket, was justified as he judged a swirling skyer off Wiseman to perfection. Hussain followed in the next over, run out by a direct hit for 69 by Gary Stead from midwicket after sauntering for a single.
The double dismissal, if potentially useful for giving others a bat, almost proved disastrous with Mark Ramprakash and Andrew Flintoff squandering chances to spend time on a fine batting pitch.
Ramprakash appears to have two states of mind when he bats – all-out aggression or hesitant defence. Whether or not the impending tea-break got into his mind, he looked ill at ease, and he quickly fell to a catch at short-leg after inside-edging the ball off his pad.
Flintoff suffers from a similar problem, though shaky defence has only recently become an option since losing the confidence to attack. Perhaps Canterbury sensed this, for they immediately put on Harris, arguably the slowest most skilful dibbly-dobbly bowler around, to mess with big Freddie's mind.
In the event, it wasn't even a contest, with Flintoff tamely patting back a return catch to Harris. England's all-rounder situation is causing concern and neither Flintoff nor Craig White have made copper-bottomed cases for themselves, though White, after seeing Usman Afzaal and Ashley Giles depart to tame dismissals, did reach 50.
During the tea interval, the New Zealand selectors announced their XII for the first Test. It was meant to come earlier, but with injuries to key bowlers, the panel felt they wanted to give the opening bowler, Chris Martin, every opportunity to press a claim. He did, but clearly by subtle means for he was picked despite figures of 0 for 80 at the close of play.
With the pacy but raw 20-year-old, Ian Butler, joining Martin in the squad, the Test pitch may not be as unfriendly to bowlers, though this may not be by design. On Saturday, there is a Super 12 rugby match at the ground and although the pitch will be protected, a drop-in substitute is being prepared in an aluminium tray.
Drop-in pitches have been used before, often with the addition of floor sealants to hold the surface – and the batting – together. Indeed, last time such a pitch was used in Christchurch, the Test ended as a high-scoring, and boring, draw.
New Zealand Squad (v England, First Test, Christchurch, 13 March): S P Fleming (capt), N J Astle, I Butler, C L Cairns, C J Drum, M J Horne, C S Martin, C D McMillan, A C Parore (wkt), MH Richardson, D L Vettori, L Vincent.
Second day; England won toss
Canterbury First Innings 212 for 8 dec (C Z Harris 82; A R Caddick 5-69).
England First Innings
(Overnight: 28 for 0)
M A Butcher c Harris b Cornelius 39
M P Vaughan c Harris b Wiseman 156
*N Hussain run out 69
M R Ramprakash c Frew b Wiseman 5
U Afzaal c Cornelius b Wisneski 19
A Flintoff c and b Harris 1
C White not out 53
ÝJ S Foster b Wisneski 3
A F Giles c Harris b Wisneski 26
A R Caddick not out 4
Extras (lb8 nb17) 25
Total (for 8, 98 overs) 400
Fall: 1-71 2-278 3-279 4-284 5-286 6-329 7-333 8-383.
To bat: M J Hoggard.
Bowling: Wisneski 20-3-89-3; Martin 19-2-80-0; Cornelius 15-2-84-1; Harris 18-4-45-1; Wiseman 17-2-70-2; Astle 9-2-24-0.
Umpires: R D Anderson and D M Quested.Reuse content