The last-mile blues
New Zealand climb a mountain against England, only to stumble near the summit
New Zealand climb a mountain against England, only to stumble near the summit
Not many eyebrows were raised when the visitors folded for under 100 in the first innings at Trent Bridge in 1973. New Zealand had not scored a win against England in over 40 years of Test cricket and things looked to be going according to script here as well. With 479 needed in the last innings for the unlikeliest of wins, New Zealand lost both openers for 16, and another two wickets for a 100-odd more before Bev Congdon, the captain, decided he would not go quietly. Congdon and Vic Pollard made centuries and New Zealand made a pretty good fist of the herculean chase, falling short by 39. They had to wait another ten years for their first win in England.
England 250 (Boycott 51, D Hadlee 4-42, Taylor 4-53) and 325-8 dec (Greig 139, Amiss 138*) beat New Zealand 97 (Taylor 19, Greig 4-33) and 440 (Congdon 176, Pollard 116, Arnold 5-131) by 38 runs
Off on the wrong foot
Bev Congdon, New Zealand captain The conditions were overcast in the early days of that first Test, and their bowling attack of John Snow, Geoff Arnold and Tony Greig made the most of it. Of the three, it was Arnold who was absolutely supreme, swinging the ball superbly.
Vic Pollard, New Zealand allrounder We got cleaned out in the first innings. Extras were the top scorer with 20. There was a bit in the track and it did seam around quite a bit as England only got 250 in their first innings. Having said that, our 97 was a bit atypical. It was more of the first-Test nerves in addition to the little bit in the track.
Geoff Arnold, England opening bowler It was a decent pitch to start with, but there was nothing much in it to explain how they got out for 97 in their first innings.
Second innings, different story
Arnold They did bounce back well to take four quick wickets early in our second innings, but Greigy and Dennis Amiss put on a big stand of over 200 to put us back on top.
Congdon After getting bowled out for 97, the only thing I told the team was that we were playing for pride, as our chances of getting to the target were slim. Each of us would do his best to sell his wicket dearly, and bat as long as possible to get close to the target. It was like climbing Mount Everest without thinking you'll need more oxygen.
The track had a little less in it in the second innings and we also knew what to expect from it. But it was no easy sailing, either.
Vic batted brilliantly and understood his role very clearly - to bat. We didn't have anything much to say during our partnership and would only point out something that we spotted that could help the other.
A Congdon special
Pollard We did fight well in our second innings and a lot was due to our captain who, despite getting knocked on the head, kept playing and built a strong platform for the final charge. When I came in, the ball was old, and that probably helped me score a bit more easily at the beginning. But Congdon had walked in early, after a couple of wickets had fallen for nearly nothing. He was a really gutsy, dogged fighter, and between the two of us we got on well. We encouraged each other to fight on session by session and that was what we focused on.
Congdon I got hit by a John Snow bouncer at one point. I was looking to chip him over the top of third man, and when the ball came back in off the track at me, I tried to swivel and hook it instead of just bailing out and going under. I ended up not doing anything properly, and it hit me in the face. It would have been easier to go off the field, but in those circumstances it would have been hard for the new man coming in to try and make do.
Arnold Congdon played exceptionally and found good support from Pollard. The way they were building their innings, we were worried at one stage. Fletch [Keith Fletcher] dropped Congdon on 39, which kept haunting us the longer he batted.
The worm turns
Dennis Amiss, England opening batsman It really surprised us when they began to play a lot better than what we thought they could. They had struggled in the first innings and we were surprised at how well they batted in the second. But the conditions were different; it was sunny and dry and the wicket was a lovely one to bat on.
Arnold Having bowled them out cheaply earlier, we felt it would be a formality getting them out again. But Snowy and I bowled a little wayward on the fourth morning till Greigy came along and got a few wickets. With the wicket offering nothing, we had to bowl long spells - I ended up bowling over 50 overs, and Snowy and Greigy both bowled 40-odd each. Trent Bridge was always conducive to swing bowling, and that was what gave us hope, though we had to work hard for it.
Arnold By the end of the fourth day Congdon appeared drained - shattered both mentally and physically. About a quarter of an hour before the end of play, I clean-bowled him. He couldn't even lift his bat at that stage.
Pollard At 307 for 5, Ken Wadsworth walked in. He was a tall, nervous character, who did not believe in labouring for ones and twos. The advantage of having him at the other end was that he kept hitting the pickets from time to time, which gave us confidence even though England were on top still. He was a good foil, and we nearly put on a hundred runs together.
Out of breath
Congdon It was just for a little while, halfway through the first session on the last day, that I felt we could do it. But once we started getting too far down the batting order, I knew we couldn't recover.
Arnold On the last day we found Pollard and Wadsworth, who was not the world's worst player, trying their best to get closer to victory. But Greigy got Pollard lbw and that was it.
Pollard To cross 400 was a tremendous boost, since sides just didn't get over 400 in the fourth innings. Around that point I started looking at the scoreboard, which might have disturbed my concentration. I was not the sort of player who ever felt confident and said, "We're gonna do it." Passing the 400-mark and seeing England sweat may have got me excited.
I followed immediately after Wadsworth, leg-before to Tony Greig. I felt like kicking myself: instead of playing to mid-on, I tried to glance on the front foot. English umpires didn't hesitate to give batsmen who played across the line lbw.
When we fell short by 38 runs, I just couldn't believe it. I kept shaking my head and repeatedly saying "38". We had been six down for 402, and we should have really got there, but we lost our last four wickets for 38 runs. If I had been not out at the other end, we would've got there.
Good on ya, Kiwis
Congdon It was a good effort, a gigantic fightback. It showed that we were good enough to be competing against England, and it told us what we needed to compete at that level. And though we lost narrowly, we came out with a lot of credit. We had restored a hell of a lot of pride and that carried us for the rest of the tour.
Amiss In the end they probably lost it more than we won it.
Pollard After we were out for 97, the press started leaving, thinking that it would be over in three or four days. John Arlott wrote in the Guardian: "Never before in Test cricket have one of the lesser powers forced their way up from humiliation to come so close to beating a major country." The journalists never expected us to fight that well after the first-innings slump. It was the first time New Zealand could've beaten England.
Boycs loses out
Amiss I was opening in the Test with Geoff Boycott. At one point in the second innings I pushed one to mid-off off Dick Collinge and called two as there was no fielder there. But Pollard ran in from cover, picked up the ball and threw it to my end. Geoff didn't hear my call and kept coming towards my end. As he drew close, I put my bat back into the crease. He wasn't happy and had to go. And after telling me I was born out of wedlock, he was heard to remark as I made my way to my hundred: "Look at the so-and-so, he is scoring all my runs."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This article was first published in the print edition of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine
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