The Wright stuff is the Key

Monday 9th March 2009

Christchurch, third day:

England Lions 346 (Wright 69, Patel 64, Batty 64; Thompson 4-98) &
353-9 dec (Wright 105, Trott 51, Scott 47, Moore 41, Key 38; Franklin
New Zealand A 243 (Young 71, Thompson 60; Davies 4-47, Batty 3-51) & 72-1.

By Charles Randall at Lincoln University

THE city of Christchurch has been hosting big events over the weekend
— a spectacular Black Caps versus India one-day international, a marching bagpipe band championship and a festival of erotica — but Robert Key’s England Lions have not lagged so very far behind on entertainment.

The Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright continued his uplifting tour with a 91-ball century, and Key’s declaration left New Zealand requiring a near-impossible 457 to win or to bat through almost four sessions to save the second Test at Lincoln University.

Wright, top scorer in the first innings with 69, played his strokes freely and judiciously, fully deserving his fourth first class hundred. He left little to chance, and on this sustained form he should bag more centuries for Sussex this summer to complement his proven one-day eminence.

Against tight bowling Wright’s fifty arrived in 52 balls, and further acceleration came during a sixth-wicket stand of 117 with wicketkeeper Ben Scott. Wright was last out after a chanceless stay, lofting a catch to deep midwicket.

To their credit the New Zealand bowlers ensured there was no element of formality as the Lions tried to build on a 103-run first-innings lead. For example, accurate spells from Brent Arnel and James Franklin had Steve Moore stuck for half an hour on 41, and the Worcestershire man was still stuck when Franklin induced a thin edge.

By then Key had played all round a ball from Arnel to fall lbw in a solid first-wicket stand of 82 with Moore. Joe Denly, Key’s opening partner for Kent, went in at number five and was bowled for seven driving at left-arm spinner Bruce Martin. He had pulled a long-hop from Ewen Thompson cleanly for six, but was deceived by Martin’s flight.

A peculiarity in cricket can be the varying degree of comfort among individual batsmen. After the Lions workhouse opening stand, Jonathan Trott arrived and creamed the ball to all quarters from his first-ball boundary and he looked entirely comfortable making 58-ball fifty.

Trott had been enduring tentative starts in other matches. Yet, despite an awkward pitch and determined bowling, he seemed to be batting from an armchair, and it was a surprise when he propped forward to somehow lob a catch to point soon after lunch.

Scott, having a good match, decided to rely on cutting and pulling.
His tempo was slower than Wright’s, but the Middlesex man provided ideal support as runs began to flow, removing any chance that New Zealand might have had of turning the initiative around.

Scott dabbed two early fours off Thompson — a left-arm seamer later called into the Black Caps one-day squad and replaced for this match by Iain Robertson — and his pulling proved productive. He played on unluckily trying to reach a wide full-length delivery from Franklin.
His chanceless 47 took 109 balls.

It was clear from the benign pace of this pitch that forcing victory is likely to test Key’s resourcefulness as captain on the final day.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images