Recent Match Report – England vs New Zealand 1st Test 2022/23

    Recent Match Report – England vs New Zealand 1st Test 2022/23

    Tea England 134 for 2 (Pope 30*, Root 9*) vs New Zealand

    Ben Duckett blazed his way to the fastest half-century in England’s Test history, from 36 balls, but fell with Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball fastest hundred at his mercy, as New Zealand were handed a gruelling Bazball refresher course in a one-sided opening session of the pink-ball Test at Mount Maunganui.

    By the interval, England had romped along to 134 for 2 in 23 overs, a run-rate of 5.82, having been asked to bat first against a New Zealand attack featuring a pair of debutants in Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn.

    After the misleadingly early loss of Zak Crawley for 4, it was Tickner who eventually added New Zealand’s second wicket of the session, as Duckett – flushed with confidence after his impressive return to Test cricket in Pakistan – was left ruing the one that got away, as he climbed through another drive and picked out Michael Bracewell in the covers for 84 from 68 balls.

    He had added 101 in just 16 overs with Ollie Pope who, though hardly sluggish in reaching the break on 30 from 47 balls, had been content to play for a partner in a runaway vein of form. In all, Duckett’s innings featured 14 fours, including a mid-morning volley of seven in 14 balls, as New Zealand’s quicks were cut to ribbons by his fast hands and combative attitude.

    The build-up to the Test had been dominated by Cyclone Gabrielle, which wreaked havoc across the North Island and in acknowledgement of which the teams were wearing black armbands. And as a consequence, neither captain had been especially keen to win the toss on a pitch that has been under wraps for a week and was something of an unknown quantity.

    In the end, Tim Southee – in his first Test on home soil since taking over as captain – chose to bowl first and for no more than three overs, it seemed New Zealand might be well placed to make inroads into an England line-up that had themselves played a solitary warm-up innings all tour, and were pre-disposed to rely on vibes rather than any read on the conditions.

    But when Crawley responded to a zippy first delivery from Southee by charging to the pitch of his next and scuffing a low edge to third slip, Bracewell was unable to cling on going to his right. And worse was to follow in the second over, when Neil Wagner – promoted to a share of the new ball in the absence of Trent Boult and Matt Henry – bowled Crawley through the gate with a perfect inswinger, only to have the wicket struck off for a no-ball.

    It was a morale-crushing moment for Wagner, whom Duckett picked off for back-to-back fours in the same over, and though he was swiftly yanked from the attack one over later, Tickner’s opening gambit was loose and nervy – not least his third over, which Duckett drilled for four fours in five balls.

    Only Southee found the requisite skill and accuracy for the helpful early conditions, but even he had no answer to Duckett’s exquisite eye for an angle, as his six overs were picked off for 32. Kuggeleijn at least began with spirit, striking Pope on the helmet with his first ball in Test cricket to prompt an early drinks break, but his three overs for 20 served only to remind New Zealand of the expertise they are missing in this line-up.

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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