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Cricket: History beckons in second test

New Zealand can consider themselves moral victors after the first test draw against England.

The world's eighth ranked team exceeded expectations by dominating more than they were dominated against by the second best team. The onus goes on them to sustain that form when the second ANZ test starts in Wellington on Thursday. New Zealand have won only one series in 17 against England at home; further such history can be made.

Consistency was the hallmark of the team's Dunedin performance, although they will be irked by an inability to take 20 wickets for a third consecutive test after failing to dismiss South Africa in January.

Regardless, it was hard to blame the bowlers at the University Oval. After razing England for 167 in the first innings they were confronted with a placid pitch on which to do the same on days four and five. Effort was not lacking. The same four specialist bowlers should be given a chance to repeat their tenacity at the Basin Reserve. However, slight doubts must have seeped in as to how nightwatchman Steve Finn lasted 284 minutes on his way to 56.

England captain Alastair Cook was relieved with their escape.

"It gives us confidence, especially when you get bowled out cheaply in the first innings. To bounce back straight away when you've got such a mountain of time to bat was pleasing."

With Tim Southee and Trent Boult presumably guaranteed places in New Zealand's first XI, Neil Wagner's performance faced scrutiny. He passed muster on his home ground with the best figures of four for 42 in the first innings and specifically with a spell of eight overs, two for 20 in the second where he dismissed Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen. Wagner never gave up on his way to bowling 43 overs and taking three for 141.

Martin should also be retained. There was enough evidence in his first innings' four for 43 to suggest there is a place for left-arm orthodox bowling against the six out of seven right-handers in England's top order. His 41 runs in the lower order helped too. Captain Brendon McCullum was impressed with his attack.

"I thought the bowlers were huge to bowl as well as they did for as long as they did on a pretty unresponsive pitch. They will be stiff and sore but they tried to bowl us to a win and that's exactly what you want.

"Neil was phenomenal and Bruce was smart in that first innings when there wasn't much there for him. He applied enough pressure to lead England into dismissals."

The New Zealand cricketer likely to benefit least from the performance is Doug Bracewell. A decision will be made on his fitness this morning after injuring his foot cleaning up after a party, but he will struggle to oust the incumbents.

New Zealand's batting looked after itself. Fears over Jimmy Anderson's swing and Finn's bounce were misplaced. The opening partnership question is resolved - at least for now - and the middle order looked settled getting starts, even if only McCullum progressed beyond 50.

McCullum paid tribute to Hamish Rutherford.

"It's a dream debut in an area where we've struggled. It wasn't just the [171] runs it was how he made them. To have someone score at that clip put us into a position in a four-day test where we could push for a result."

In contrast, England's first innings failure faces further examination, despite responding in the second.

- Herald on Sunday

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