Only 65 overs were possible on the first day of the Headingley Test, and although this was 25 less than what is supposed to be bowled on a day, there was no shortage of entertainment. Continuing from where they left off at Lord’s, both New Zealand and England took turns to dominate and, in the end, neither side had the upper hand as the day drew to a close. There was no shortage of excitement as James Anderson crossed the much-awaited 400 wickets landmark, and 34-year-old debutant Luke Ronchi top-scored with a smashing 88. England kept picking wickets though and in the end New Zealand were 297 for 8.
The Englishmen got off to a sensational start courtesy Anderson, who picked his 400th and 401st wicket in the space of three balls in only his second over. Anderson dismissed Martin Guptill for a duck in manner that he has gotten out so many other batsmen, getting him to edge one to slip. Rain interrupted even as Anderson was celebrating his milestone. On resumption, Anderson had the cherry on the cake as the fast bowler got the dangerous Kane Williamson with another outswinger, which the batsman could only edge behind to slips. The Kiwis were 2 for 2 as rain interrupted proceedings again.
When play resumed, New Zealand began their fight back with opener Tom Latham and Ross Taylor adding 66 in a little over 12 overs. They needed more from the alliance, but Taylor fell lbw to Stuart Broad for 20, not offering a shot. At 68 for 3, and in big trouble, Latham was joined by skipper Brendon McCullum. Although we know by now how McCullum approaches any situation, the hosts were stung as the Kiwi captain blasted 41 from 28. In fact, the first delivery he faced, from Broad was cracked over the fence. Latham and McCullum added 55 for the fourth wicket, and the latter got 41.
In spite of their aggressive stroke play, New Zealand were still in deep trouble as they had still progressed only as far as 123 at the loss of their skipper’s wicket. But, Latham and Ronchi featured in an amazing partnership to resurrect the innings. Latham was aggressive at the start as he reached his half-century in 72 deliveries, but they settled down as wickets began to fall. He eventually made 84 from 180 balls. Ronchi was aggressive right from the start, and raced to his fifty off 37 balls. His innings included three sixes off Moeen Ali, before he too fell in the 80s.
Broad’s quick dismissals of Latham and Ronchi, put England back on track, but things could have been much better for them had they held on to their chances. Latham was dropped twice off Ali’s bowling, although it must be said that the DRS system also came to his rescue. Later, Alastair Cook also grassed a chance at slip. England still have a chance to restrict the Kiwis to under 350, but for that they need to take their catches.
--By A Cricket Correspondent