Cricket: Howzat for openers? NZ in charge

By Andrew Alderson, in Dunedin

Barmy Army left in silence as home side dominates on first day of play in Dunedin test.

Peter Fulton New Zealand opener Hamish Rutherford shows his style at University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Peter Fulton New Zealand opener Hamish Rutherford shows his style at University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand produced one of the most dominant days in its test history at the University Oval yesterday.

The hosts are 131 without loss in response to England's 167. The Barmy Army were impressed into silence for much of the day. Even their stirring rendition of Jerusalem failed to prevent a crumble.

England are a top international team but the neutral observer could be forgiven for mistaking who was ranked second in the world and who was ranked eighth.

There is a certain irony toasting the efforts of a side pummelled in South Africa and facing scrutiny over the whiff of a booze culture but they deserve credit for absorbing such pressure and applying themselves with professionalism.

Coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum can take heart the team might be headed in the right direction. The packed crowd certainly gave the performance a tick. Comments such as "who would have thought" followed by the shaking of heads were witnessed from fans heading to the gate.

Debutants Bruce Martin and Hamish Rutherford played like veterans; Peter Fulton proved he was worthy of a recall after more than three years' domestic toil; Neil Wagner justified his selection with a potent barrage in Doug Bracewell's absence; BJ Watling was slick with the gloves and Brendon McCullum exhibited thoughtful captaincy.

Wagner's effort was the highlight on his way to four for 42. He steamed in on his adopted home ground and ripped through the heart of the England top order, dismissing Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. His aggression was palpable and the inswinger he delivered Pietersen to trap him lbw (and set up an unsuccessful hat-trick) won the Oscar for ball of the innings.

Martin secured the three dismissals immediately post-lunch, finishing with four for 43. He had Matt Prior chipping to Kane Williamson at point; enticed Jonathan Trott into a mistimed sweep to short fine leg for the top score of 45 and had Stuart Broad loft a sweep shot to deep square leg. Dean Brownlie had been posted back by captain McCullum, setting a useful trap. Eight of England's wickets were caught as the New Zealand attack coaxed a series of false shots.

Apart from Martin dropping Cook early, it was largely a slick fielding display, led by Watling. Only a ragged delivery down the legside for four byes blotted his copybook. McCullum kept the pressure on by positioning himself, sans helmet, at silly point for Martin as the England lower order battled.

The impact of the first session set the tone. England were 81 for five, making it New Zealand's most successful first session fielding since Pakistan were 83 for five at Napier in December 2009.

Rutherford (77 not out) and Fulton (46 not out) posted New Zealand's first century opening partnership in 23 innings. The last was against Zimbabwe in January 2012. The last against England was 163 between Mark Richardson and Stephen Fleming at Nottingham in 2004; no opening stand has been higher against any team since.

The pair are the 21st different opening partnership since 2005 but looked settled against the England attack. The wicket flattened in the sun and the bounce was less effective than in the morning. Both can reach milestones. Rutherford could be the ninth New Zealand batsman to score a century on debut while Fulton's highest test score is 75.

The openers were selected on the back of domestic form and met expectations with their application. Rutherford has had a couple of dicey moments with the slip cordon (particularly a sitter dropped by Pietersen in the gully when he was on 64). Fulton's supposed vulnerability to bounce was also tested. Both got behind the ball for the most part and played straight.

Rutherford also took three catches, including one at short cover which he stopped, spiked and eventually caught from a full-blooded Bell drive. He lay prone in the starfish position afterwards, soaking up the relief.

Read more: Test newbies prove they're up to task

- NZ Herald

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