DUNEDIN, New Zealand: A superb 171 on debut from Hamish Rutherford steered New Zealand to a commanding first innings lead over England on the third day of the opening Test at University Oval on Friday.
Rutherford, 23, posted the seventh highest debut in Test history as he carved up the England attack, exceeding the tourists’ total of 167 single handedly as New Zealand opened up a 235 innings lead.
The Black Caps were 402 for seven when rain halted play late in the day, with Brendon McCullum unbeaten on 44 and Bruce Martin 17 not out.
While a James Anderson-inspired England improved after a batting performance that Ian Botham said was one of the worst he had ever witnessed, the Black Caps face the frustrating prospect the weather will save the tourists’ blushes.
With the entire first day washed out, Friday’s interruption cost another 32 overs, leaving the Black Caps racing against time to use their advantage to rack up a rare win over the world’s second-ranked Test team.
Starting the day at 131 without loss, the New Zealanders piled on the pain for England as Rutherford nervelessly added 94 to his overnight total of 77, including a 158-run opening partnership with Peter Fulton (55).
On the way, he became only the ninth New Zealander to reach a century on debut, recording the best first-up score since South African Jacques Rudolph’s 222 against Bangladesh in 2003.
It was the seventh highest debut in 136 years of Test cricket, bettered among New Zealanders only by Mathew Sinclair’s 214 against the West Indies in Wellington in 1999.
“It won’t sink in until I get home and have a wee lie down,” said Rutherford, the son of former New Zealand captain Ken.
“There was a lot of relief, I suppose. Obviously it’s very special to do it here in front of my home fans and family and friends.”
He said he adopted a simple approach to the innings, which saw him score 22 fours and three sixes.
“You just duck and weave and… try and hit as many as you can in between,” he said.
He finally departed after 340 minutes, when Anderson took the new ball and Rutherford mistimed his response, popping his first dab at it up to a grateful Chris Woakes.
Rutherford’s departure led to a wobble in New Zealand’s middle order, as Anderson exploited the new ball to dismiss Ross Taylor for 31 and Dean Brownlie for 27, with Stuart Broad also chipping in to clean bowl BJ Watling for a duck.
Anderson ended the day with figures of four for 108, with Broad taking two for 89, while Steve Finn (none for 102) and Monty Panesar (one for 83) both proved expensive in an attack sorely missing injured spinner Graeme Swann.
Black Caps captain McCullum, who relinquished his opening spot to come in down the order, went on the attack in the final session with Tim Southee, who scored a quickfire 25 off 29 balls before Broad broke their 44-run partnership.
McCullum, carefully working the strike with the tail-enders, was extending New Zealand’s lead in typically belligerent fashion before rain stopped play almost two hours before stumps were due to be called.