Even though the opening Test between England and New Zealand ended in a stalemate, both sides had their fair shares of gains and minuses. For one, New Zealand would have rued the fact that there was there was no play possible on the opening day of the Test due to rain, but that was not something which was in their hands. At the same time, their bowlers had ample time to bowl their side to a victory, but a combination of tired bowlers, some dogged batting and an unresponsive pitch allowed England to fight their way to a draw.
New Zealand were brilliant with the ball and bat in their first innings. The pacy Neil Wagner and debutant spinner Bruce Martin had England in all sorts of trouble. Their respective four-wicket spells never allowed the visitors to settle, as a result of which the Kiwis gained the early advantage. A number of the English batsmen got starts, but Wanger and Martin did very well not allow any of those batsmen to carry on and make a significant score. The superb bowling performance by the Kiwis ensured that their chances of losing the Test from thereon were slim.
If a debutant impressed with the ball for New Zealand, it was another debutant who stood out during the hosts’ batting stint in the first innings. Hamish Rutherford, who got the opportunity to open the innings only because regular Martin Guptill was injured, grabbed the chance with both hands. It was an innings of rare maturity from someone playing in his first Test. The fact that Rutherford held fort for 340 minutes during his marathon vigil exhibited the levels of patience and stamina he possesses. New Zealand would also have been pleased to see Peter Fulton and Brendon McCullum get among the runs.
Speaking of the visitors, most of England’s gains came in the second innings. Almost all the English batsmen batted with a sense of purpose as they looked to save the game. Alastair Cook and Nick Compton came up with glorious centuries at the top of the order, which went a long way in England successfully drawing the game. While Cook batted for 335 minutes, Compton held things up for over 400 minutes, which basically frustrated the New Zealand bowlers into submission. Even after the opening duo was dismissed, Steven Finn played a surprisingly dour knock to kill any faint hopes New Zealand had of a victory.
Among the disappointing aspects for the two sides, England would be careful not to repeat the batting failure at Dunedin. Stuart Broad, in particular, has a point of prove, considering he hasn’t done anything of note in recent times. Also, they will be keen to show significant improvement in the bowling performance. As for the hosts, they would like more batsmen to get bigger scores. A lot of them got starts at Dunedin before falling. They would also hope to perform better with the ball at Wellington, where the conditions are likely to be more conducive for the faster men.
--By A Cricket Analyst