Home-town heroes cause headaches

England probably does not think so, but yesterday's effort by New Zealand at the University Oval in Dunedin made for one of the great days of test cricket.

 

And it was so unexpected.

England supporter Alex Dettman (30), of York, holds his head after being hit by a Hamish Rutherford six at University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
England supporter Alex Dettman (30), of York, holds his head after being hit by a Hamish Rutherford six at University Oval in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
How often did we read in the lead-up to the first test that the Black Caps were in disarray? That they were sliding down the world rankings by the nano-second - a second-tier side, supposedly.

Well, the New Zealanders dominated and were on the front-foot against the world's No 2 side for every minute of the day's play.

A couple of home-town heroes made telling contributions in front of a big crowd.

Otago pace bowler Neil Wagner took two wickets with his first three balls to help skittle England's formidable top order. He finished the day with four wickets for 42 runs.

The South African-born left-armer steamed in on his adopted home ground. His aggression was palpable and the inswinger he delivered to Kevin Pietersen to trap him lbw (and set up an unsuccessful hat trick) won the Oscar for ball of the innings.

Debutant spinner Bruce Martin did the rest with the ball, taking four for 43 to help dismiss England for a miserly 167.

Then, Otago opener Hamish Rutherford (77), also on debut, combined with Peter Fulton (46) in an unbroken stand of 131.

The 23-year-old left-hander had earlier taken three catches, including a stunner at short cover.

He provided headaches for the English off the field, too. A six he hit - the first of the test - left English cricket supporter Alex Dettman (30), of York, with a bloody brow.

 

''I blew my nose, looked up and went `Uh-oh','' Mr Dettman said.

The ball hit him on left side of his head and left a bloody graze in his hairline.

Mr Dettman turned down medical attention from concerned St John ambulance staff so he could keep watching the cricket and said he enjoyed the day regardless.

''It's like England, but a lot nicer and warmer.''

On the field, while Wagner, Martin and Rutherford will hog the headlines, Peter Fulton proved he was worthy of a recall after more than three years' domestic toil; BJ Watling was slick with the gloves, and Brendon McCullum exhibited thoughtful captaincy.

Unbelievably, New Zealand trails by just 36 runs with all 10 first innings wickets intact.

Anything can happen in cricket and there are still three days to go at the University Oval - but what a day to celebrate for the home side.

- Additional reporting: Shawn McAvinue/The New Zealand Herald