Victorious Hussain prepares to bow out

New Zealand 386 &amp; 336 England 441 &amp; 282-3 <i>England win by 7 wickets</i>
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Nasser Hussain has enjoyed every England victory he has been involved in, but there was something different about his celebrations when he left Lord's yesterday evening. After taking England to a remarkable seven-wicket win over New Zealand there was something final about the way in which he waved to the crowd as he led the players from the field.

Nasser Hussain has enjoyed every England victory he has been involved in, but there was something different about his celebrations when he left Lord's yesterday evening. After taking England to a remarkable seven-wicket win over New Zealand there was something final about the way in which he waved to the crowd as he led the players from the field.

After scoring his 14th Test hundred and securing England's joint fifth-highest run chase the former England captain walked from the home of cricket with his hands held high, acknowledging each corner of the ground. His passionate nature has always ensured each century is greeted in memorable fashion, but with the applause of the 20,000 spectators ringing in his ears he seemed to be saying goodbye.

Hussain has openly stated his desire to become the eighth man to play 100 Test matches for England, but in order to fulfil this goal he needs to play another Test match at Lord's. Hussain currently has 96 caps to his name and the first Test here against the West Indies would take him to 99. Hussain would have to travel to Edgbaston to make his 100th appearance.

But before then he needs to convince the selectors that he should be picked in front of Andrew Strauss. Hussain would be aware of the dilemma which faces the selectors, who would be pilloried if they dropped Strauss after he had scored 195 runs on his Test debut. The axing of Ashley Giles at Headingley in nine days' time would allow them to delay making a decision on Hussain's future until Trent Bridge, but a player of his pedigree would prefer to be in control of his destiny rather than leave it in the hands of others.

Hussain knew he had to see England home to victory after running Strauss out on his home ground when he was just 17 runs away from becoming the third player ever to score a century in each innings of a Test debut. If the former England captain had not taken his side home he would have had to have left Lord's in his spikes in order to outsprint the lynch mob pursuing him.

But Hussain has been around too long ­ and been involved in too many run-outs ­ to allow a mistake of this magnitude to knock him out of his stride. The dismissal of Strauss would have upset him and he would have been aware of everyone's reaction had he quickly followed the Middlesex captain back to the pavilion. It would have increased the calls for his Test career to be brought to an end.

But these have always been the situations in which Hussain has thrived. The 36-year-old loves the challenge of proving people wrong, especially those who dare to doubt that he still has the desire or the ability to win Test matches for England. Hussain was pipped for the man-of-the-match award by Strauss, but it is hard to believe he can have enjoyed any of his previous Test hundreds as much as the one he scored yesterday.

Hussain only took control of the game after tea when England needed just 113 runs for victory. Before then he appeared quite content to watch Strauss and Graham Thorpe dominate century partnerships. The right-hander has never had the range of strokes or the desire to take charge of partnerships and before this Test he stated that he took more pleasure from scoring important runs than playing the best shot of the day.

But his experience told him when the Kiwis were there to be taken and, following the interval, he came out and smashed the ball to all parts of the ground. Hussain's 203-ball hundred came via a sumptuous cover-drive for four and on seeing the ball reach the extra cover boundary he sank down on one knee and punched the air.

He then soaked up the applause of the huge crowd ­ who had been allowed in at the reduced rate of £10 for adults and £5 for children and OAPs ­ before aiming an ironic wave at Ian Botham, and the other journalists and commentators who said he should be dropped, in the media centre.

Following the loss of two early wickets it was the partnership of 108 between Strauss and Hussain which settled the nerves of the home dressing-room. Strauss' performance throughout this match has been phenomenal and yesterday he showed that his first innings century was no fluke. At times he lived dangerously but batting was difficult on a surface offering increasingly inconsistent bounce.

The most impressive thing was that he never appeared to panic. The ball often flew past the 27-year-old's outside edge, but all he did was put his head down and concentrate on the next delivery. This approach looked set to take him to three figures until Hussain cut one to Chris Cairns at cover point and set off for a risky single.

Strauss failed to respond to Hussain's call and, after a bit of dancing between the pair in the middle of the pitch, the junior man was run out.

England were given the worst possible start when Marcus Trescothick, in his first Test in charge, was magnificently caught and bowled by Daryl Tuffey in the fifth over of the morning. The Somerset opener pushed forward in the same manner he has on thousands of occasions but to his horror the ball, after hitting a crack in the pitch, struck the splice of his bat and lobbed down the wicket. Most bowlers would have struggled to get a hand on the ball, but the Maori seamer dived to his right and plucked the ball out of the air.

Mark Butcher joined Strauss but failed to produce the innings England needed. On five he was lucky to survive a strong appeal from Vettori for a catch at silly-point, but in the next over he flashed at a loose delivery from Chris Martin and edged the ball to first slip.

England still required 139 runs for victory when Thorpe joined Hussain, but the immediate future of their side could not have been in better hands. The pair rode their fortune against the luckless "black caps" but paced England's charge perfectly.

Throughout his career Thorpe has been Hussain's closest friend and it was fitting that the pair should be seen with their arms around each other when the winning runs were struck. Should this turn out to be Hussain's final game for England he could not have chosen a better occasion or a better way of finishing his career.


Final day of five; New Zealand won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings 386 (M H Richardson 93, C L Cairns 82, J D P Oram 67, N J Astle 64; S J Harmison 4-126).

ENGLAND - First Innings 441 (A J Strauss 112, M E Trescothick 86, A Flintoff 63).

NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings 336 (M H Richardson 101, B B McCullum 96; S J Harmison 4-76).

ENGLAND - Second Innings (Overnight: 8 for 0)
M E Trescothick c and b Tuffey 2
A J Strauss run out (Cairns-McCullum) 83
M A Butcher c Fleming b Martin 6
N Hussain not out 103
G P Thorpe not out 51
Extras (b7 lb12 w5 nb13) 37
Total (for 3, 377 min, 87 overs) 282

Fall: 1-18 (Trescothick), 2-35 (Butcher), 3-143 (Strauss).

Bowling: Oram 15-4-39-0 (nb5) (2-1-3-0, 6-2-8-0, 5-1-16-0, 2-0-12-0); Tuffey 10-3-32-1 (7-3-18-1, 3-0-14-0); Vettori 25-5-53-0 (1-1-0-0, 10-2-26-0, 3-0-9-0, 10-2-15-0, 1-0-3-0); Martin 18-2-75-1 (nb5 w5) (5-1-18-1, 6-1-12-0, 4-0-23-0, 3-0-22-0); Styris 13-5-37-0 (nb1) (3-2-8-0, 4-1-14-0, 6-2-15-0); Cairns 6-0-27-0 (nb2) (5-0-20-0, 1-0-7-0).

Progress: Fourth day close: 8-0 (Trescothick 1, Strauss 6) 5 overs. Fifth day: 50: 109 min, 24.5 overs. Lunch: 87-2 (Strauss 52, Hussain 15) 33 overs. 100: 168 min, 39.5 overs. 150: 231 min, 53 overs. Tea: 169-3 (Hussain 38, Thorpe 12) 61 overs. 200: 303 min, 72.1 overs. New ball taken after 81 overs at 246-3. 250: 352 min, 81.3 overs.

Strauss's 50: 128 min, 97 balls, 8 fours. Hussain's 50: 229 min, 158 balls, 7 fours. 100: 294 min, 203 balls, 15 fours. Thorpe's 50: 147 min, 97 balls, 6 fours.

Result: England won by seven wickets at 5.25pm.

Man of the match: A J Strauss.

Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: M R Benson.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.