Threats of rain were forecast on day one, but by first ball at 11:00am the sun was out albeit with the odd tendency to take respite behind the clouds. On the pitch, Tom Latham was pretty lit.
Whilst the rain eventually came, the heat off the bat of Tom Latham had put New Zealand into decent position in a day of cricket at Seddon Park that had a lot to offer.
A decent Friday crowd, the Barmy Army minus the trumpet (because… security), brand new floodlights with special LED technology to gaze up at, and a sensational spread. It was just lovely all told, at least until the rain came.
Matt Henry was chosen to replace the injured Trent Boult, and with Daryl Mitchell also on debut, New Zealand’s deep squad was about to be tested somewhat. Tom Latham didn’t care, and in a batting masterclass which further led to the 27-year being put into the “premier test batsman” conversation, saying his stroke play was a joy to watch would be an understatement.
Speaking of understatements and all things curious, such was the day England had on the field, and in some ways, the plans put in place before the action had even began.
Bowling first on a pitch expected to turn later in the match was interesting, as was playing no specialist spinner, as was having a part-time wicket keeper when not too long ago that particular position was one of the more crowded ones.
Joe Root, fresh off taking a pounding in the English press, may have made the decision based on stats as Seddon Park has traditionally been a decent bowling surface, but England haven’t played a game here since 2008 don’t forget.
But with Jeet Raval and the big scalp of Kane Williamson both back in the sheds with the score under 50, maybe Root had helped his cause somewhat after taking two blinding catches in the slips. Time will tell, and as always in Test cricket, don’t judge how a pitch plays until both teams have had a go.
By lunch, Tom Latham was past another Test match half century and had ridden his luck well to deny an LBW decision which would’ve handed England advantage come the food tables.
The second overturned decision was controversial, replays showing Ross Taylor appearing to miss the ball before being trapped LBW. However, hotspot and snicko clearly didn’t get the memo and through the power of technology, convinced the umpires that somehow, someway there was indeed a slight inside edge.
The Blackcaps veteran, with more experience than anyone else at Test level in this match with ease, repaid the debt by slashing through to the boundary more than a few times to take the attack to England in the first major sign of aggression in the match.
Adding to the English troubles, Latham was dropped by Ben Stokes just prior to drinks.
Speaking of drink and food, with a biscuit or two being consumed by the players, lunch at Seddon Park on day one also gets a good rating. A choice of chicken, some delicious lamb and a good selection of salads and bread made for large lines heading up to the media and production crew food table. Anything short of a 7/10 rating for the caterers would be a travesty.
But, back to the cricket. Taylor was now past 50 for just the 32nd time in his career but the celebration didn’t last long because Chris Woakes had his number on the very next ball. It was the third catch in the slips for Root since play began and a crucial reprieve for the English who surely must have begun to question the merits of the decision at the toss.
Furthermore, the skies were slowly getting darker up above. Storm activity was reported lower down the island. Ground staff, led by nice Karl Johnson (otherwise known as KJ), were well prepared so that when the rain started falling just after tea, they were quick to respond.
New Zealand are currently 173/3, Latham has scored 101 of those runs.
Speaking to media underneath the main pavilion once play had been called for the day, Latham said that the decision at the toss was difficult due to the uncertain nature of the wicket.
“It was a wicket where we weren’t sure what we were going to do”, Latham said, “to be in this position equals a pretty decent day for us. It’s going to be a restart tomorrow, the first couple of hours will be really important and it will be nice to try and kick on”.
By that, Latham means he’d like to go on and notch a big score, something that does tend to happen once the son of a New Zealand great goes past triple figures.
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