- England Lions v NZ, Tour Match, Grace Road, 1st day
Rutherford lays down Test marker with hundred
Hamish Rutherford warmed-up for the Test series next week with an aggressive hundred against England Lions as the second-string bowlers failed to impress at Grace Road before rain wiped out half the overs.
Although New Zealand won against Derbyshire, their top order did not cover themselves in glory against what was largely a reserve county attack. The line-up facing them here is a significant step up, and an important increase in intensity ahead of the Test match, although only Graham Onions produced the consistency required on a blustery day, which appeared to impact the bowlers' rhythms
Rutherford's innings, coming after the visitors were inserted on a green pitch that offered less than appeared likely, contained the hallmarks of his debut series in March: a strong preference for the off side, an attacking mindset, but also the propensity to offer bowlers a chance with a lack of footwork when he drives.
He knows the value of warm-up runs, having made 90 in Queenstown before his Test debut where he made 171, and with his only previous cricket in the British Isles coming during two seasons in Scotland, but he also knows this is not his most important innings.
"It doesn't really matter scoring them in the warm-up games it matters in the proper games," he said. "For me, personally, it's nice to spend some decent time at the crease in these sort of conditions."
During this innings, the ones he flashed at did not take the edge and the ones he struck regularly came out of the middle but he was handed on life on 85 when Michael Carberry could not hold a swirling chance at deep midwicket off Simon Kerrigan, who then felt the brunt of Rutherford's bat.
His 110-ball hundred included 15 boundaries and three sixes, all straight off Kerrigan, the third of which took him to his century the ball after a similar blow had just failed to be gathered inside the boundary at long-on by Onions. After trying keep himself inside the playing area, Onions turned to the people sat behind him for confirmation of whether it was six or out: it was the New Zealand dugout who were able to confirm.
"It was a gameplan," Rutherford said, "you see the ball tossed up it's a tough asking for any bowler into that breeze we had today although I did pitching-wedge a couple."
Rutherford continued to latch on to Kerrigan, the Lancashire left-arm spinner who was bowling into the stiff breeze, which enabled the batsmen to hit with it as Rutherford struck his fourth six moments after passing three figures. It was similar to the treatment he dished out to Monty Panesar at stages during the series in New Zealand.
Also very familiar from the previous series was his strength through the off side from cover to backward point, an area fed by the Lions bowlers who gave him too many wide deliveries to pick off. Twice he took three boundaries in an over, once off Chris Woakes then again from Toby Roland-Jones who struggled bowling into the strong breeze.
"We found him quite tricky to bowl at, he manufactures width pretty well which he showed throughout his innings and he's pretty aggressive," Roland-Jones said. "We tried to straighten up on him and restrict his boundaries and I felt as the day wore on we got better with that."
The first wicket came in the seventh over when Peter Fulton played round a full delivery from Onions which would have taken out middle as his tricky start to the tour continued. When England's attack did not find much movement in New Zealand Fulton was able to play to his favoured leg side with less risk, but the extra nip with the Duke ball on greener pitches makes it a likely mode of dismissal for him.
Onions was given an eight-over spell with the new ball and pushed his length fuller than the other frontline quicks. He could have claimed Kane Williamson for 2 but Woakes spilled a rapid chance at gully. Williamson, however, did not build on his reprieve and pulled a short ball from Roland-Jones low to midwicket.
Ross Taylor's first innings of the tour began in slightly uncertain style. Barring the hundred he made in the one-day series against England he has struggled since returning after the captaincy fall-out. He was beaten a couple of times outside off, drove close to point although after the lunch break started to look a little more at ease until, like Fulton, playing round a full delivery to be lbw.
That was a second wicket for Roland-Jones, who had changed ends to have the wind behind him and struck in his first over of a spell for the second time in the day, as he clawed back his figures from the earlier punishment.
"It was pretty difficult to be honest, combining into that wind with going uphill and it was about trying to do a job," Roland-Jones said. "There's always a job to do coming up the hill, but as a tall bloke it's much nicer to come down the hill."
Dean Brownlie, who eased debate over his Test place with 71 against Derbyshire, survived a strong appeal for caught behind against Chris Wright before rain forced the players off for an early tea. They did not have the chance to resume.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo