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Archives for March 2008

And the winner is...

Graeme Swann | 13:35 UK time, Thursday, 27 March 2008

Scroll down to check out my end-of-tour award winners and read my answers to your questions

Two words can sum up our Test series win over New Zealand, I think, 'job done'.

The sense of achievement amongst the squad is great. While it wasn’t a five-Test series or the Ashes, this was a tough tour against a good side - and to come from behind to win 2-1 was absolutely fantastic.

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England show character to win series

Jonathan Agnew | 04:52 UK time, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Napier: day five of third Test - Outrageous hitting by Tim Southee - the 19-year-old New Zealand debutant – damaged bowling figures and delayed England’s victory, but it didn’t dampen their celebrations.

To come back from 1-0 down in a three Test series is always a tall order.

England owe as much to the character of the players and the boldness of the selectors as they do to the Wellington groundsman who defied Daniel Vettori’s orders and prepared a pitch that suited the tourists.

Without that, and Tim Ambrose’s fighting hundred there, the comeback might never have happened.

On the plus side of the tour, Ryan Sidebottom emerged as the difference between the bowling attacks of both sides, taking 24 wickets in the series...

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Napier provides fitting finale

Phil Long | 04:50 UK time, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

After problems with the harsh New Zealand sun in Hamilton, it was problems of a more logistical, and unfortunately, increasingly common nature which left a lot of English fans stumped in Napier.

The city positively groaned under the influx of fans in town for reasons as diverse as a Jack Johnson gig, hordes of Kiwi families enjoying the last sun of the summer and, believe or not, the local apple picking season!

When you throw a few thousand England cricket fans into the mix, it's easy to see why there's not been a bed, from backpackers hostels to five-star hotels, to be had for the last week.

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England attack gets back on track

Jonathan Agnew | 07:19 UK time, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Napier: day four of third Test - It required patience, but England finally broke the back of New Zealand’s resistance after tea and are set up to take the series on the final day.

With the new ball only two overs old, and just Daniel Vettori to come before the tail, it seems unthinkable that New Zealand could possibly survive another 90 overs.

Monty Panesar bowled a lovely, controlling spell in which he found a little more help than we anticipated. The end he preferred meant that one of the fast bowlers had to slog it out into the wind, and although this was not a Wellington hurricane, Stuart Broad’s 14-over stint was still a sterling effort - particularly as James Anderson had, once again, conceded five runs per over.

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Strauss's ton not quite a virtuoso performance

Jonathan Agnew | 07:45 UK time, Monday, 24 March 2008

Napier: day three of third Test - This was a truly staggering performance by Andrew Strauss, and an innings which lends us great insight into his character.

This was his last chance saloon, and he and everyone knew it.

Therefore to bat eight hours for his highest ever Test score (173no) was remarkable – particularly because in terms of technique he still had problems.

Indeed, this was a personal victory in spite of technical shortcomings which were exposed again when the second new ball was taken and he was well past his century.

Time and again he was beaten outside the off stump by Chris Martin as his front foot remained rooted in within the crease, but it seems inconceivable that he will not play in the first Test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord's...

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Sidebottom swings match England's way

Jonathan Agnew | 07:14 UK time, Sunday, 23 March 2008

Napier: day two of third Test - Ryan Sidebottom’s amazing return to Test cricket goes from strength to strength, and he has now become the highest England wicket taker ever on a tour of New Zealand.

More significantly, perhaps, he has rescued England from the real prospect of defeat in the final Test and put them in the position from which they should take the series.

His achievement has to be measured against the fact that if England’s batting on the first day was dreadful, New Zealand’s first innings was not of Test quality.

I don’t think, in 18 years, I have seen a quite such an inept performance from a senior Test-playing team in such an important match...

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Farewell to Trescothick

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 05:38 UK time, Sunday, 23 March 2008

Marcus Trescothick’s retirement from international cricket seemed inevitable once he withdrew from Somerset’s pre-season tour to Dubai.

It would not have been an easy decision to end any chance of returning to play for his country, and he must be respected for it.

It is a good move, finally freeing him from any torment and nagging in his mind about if, when and how he could get back into the England team; a prospect that was becoming increasingly remote as time went on.

It also gives England a chance to move forward – something he has acknowledged.

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England's top order fail again

Jonathan Agnew | 07:39 UK time, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Napier: day one of third Test - Dear me! What a truly shocking performance in every sense.

How on earth did England manage to bat like that on a good pitch and against a five-man bowling attack of which three could rustle up a total of two Tests between them?

I am not sure if it is due to over confidence, or fragile confidence but whichever of the two it is, there is something terribly wrong with the mindset of England’s top order - Kevin Pietersen apart, of course.

Pietersen knows it, too. His celebration for his 11th Test century was, by his enthusiastic standards, very muted.

It simply did not feel right for him to show too much personal satisfaction in the wider context of his team’s humiliation...

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Kiwi injuries give England the edge

Jonathan Agnew | 10:42 UK time, Friday, 21 March 2008

I have inspected the pitch for the third and final Test between New Zealand and England in Napier - and it looks to be a belter.

By that, I mean hard with predictable bounce and unlikely to offer the seam bowlers anything after the first session of play, and little help for the spinners, even later in the match.

It seems that a result might be hard to come by - but this is the decider, after all, and the series should not be settled by a lucky win of a toss on a sporting pitch.

Besides, both sides have shown that they are more than capable of collapsing with the bat and it could be that the team which keeps its nerve in this winner-takes-all situation comes through in the end.

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Vocal Barmy Army livens up Test series

Phil Long | 12:38 UK time, Thursday, 20 March 2008

England's first away victory on foreign shores for almost two years, five days of almost unbroken Wellington sunshine and a chance to win the series in Napier- the win at the wonderful Basin Reserve was almost as good as it gets on tour.

And, as well as that, the performance of England's Barmy Army made hundreds of new friends at the Basin and won back some of the ground it has undoubtedly lost over the last few tours.

On recent trips away the Barmy Army have come under increasing criticism for a lack of variety and wit in the chants and songs they trot out to get behind the boys.

However, at The Basin Reserve it was something approaching the good old days of 'the Army' with the most vocal English contingent packed into the far end of the superb grass bank that dominates one half of this fantastically atmospheric stadium.

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Welcome to Napier - Art Deco heaven

Adam Mountford Adam Mountford | 09:06 UK time, Thursday, 20 March 2008

The England team and the media pack have made the journey from Wellington to Napier for the final part of this two month tour of New Zealand.

It's about a five-hour journey by road and is a very picturesque route especially as you enter the Hawkes Bay region renowned for its rich and fertile agriculture and numerous wineries.

Hawkes Bay is also famous for having the town with the longest place name in the world....

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Ask Bearders #166

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Bill Frindall | 10:59 UK time, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Welcome to Ask Bearders, where Test Match Special statistician Bill "The Bearded Wonder" Frindall answers your questions on all things cricket.

Below are Bill's responses to some of your questions posed at the end of his last column and if you have a question for Bill, leave it at the end of this blog entry. Please do include your country of residence - Bill loves to hear where all his correspondents are posting from.

Bill isn't able to answer all of your questions, however. BBC Sport staff will choose a selection of them and send them to Bearders for him to answer.

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England sing new, improved song

Graeme Swann | 06:31 UK time, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Scroll down to read my answers to your questions

It was plainly obvious to anyone watching the second Test against New Zealand how much the victory meant to us, and the mood in the England camp has been brilliant since.

We received a lot of criticism after the first Test – some of it just and some of it unjust – but the guys have been busting a gut since we’ve got over here and it was nice to answer the critics in the best possible way.

It needed to happen, of course. We had to step up after Hamilton and, bearing in mind England hadn’t won a Test away from home for so long, it was crucial we went out, played as we know we can, and hammered it home, which we did.

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St Patrick's Day will come again

Kevin Howells | 09:45 UK time, Monday, 17 March 2008

A year ago on St Patrick's Day, Ireland were celebrating one of the biggest upsets in cricket history when they beat Pakistan in the World Cup.

I was hoping its impact on the game back in Ireland would have been a launch pad to a bigger and brighter future. St Patrick's Day 2007 was very special in Kingston, Jamaica, and one of very few highlights in that disappointing two months of so-called 'carnival cricket'

Sadly, since then their finances and their results on the field tell a different story.

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Selectorial decisions pay off

Jonathan Agnew | 01:16 UK time, Monday, 17 March 2008

Statistically this was a comprehensive victory, but England are honest enough to know that this rated seven out of 10.

A win is a win, of course – and this was England’s first overseas victory for two years, and their first anywhere for eight Tests.

They will take a great deal of confidence with them to Napier where they should prove that they are the better of the two teams.

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Poor fielding frustrates England

Jonathan Agnew | 06:44 UK time, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Wellington: day four of second Test - It has been a long time since England have had as bad a day as this in the field.

England squandered the many chances and opportunities that came their way - they should have finished the match.

Of the eight New Zealand batsmen to appear in this innings, all but three gave a chance of some sort – a couple were very difficult, but three, in particular, were easy.

One of those was a stumping chance to Tim Ambrose off Monty Panesar...

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Freak sporting injuries

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 23:55 UK time, Saturday, 15 March 2008

Fortunately for England, James Anderson was passed fit to play on the fourth day of the second Test in Wellington, after going over on his left ankle playing football in the warm-down at the end of the previous day.

He was seen leaving the Basin Reserve on crutches, which sparked great concern among England followers after his 5-73 in the first innings.

If Anderson had been ruled out, it wouldn’t have been the first time he was sidelined by a non-cricket injury.

In 2003 he missed the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo after injuring his ankle playing squash with James Kirtley. Ironically, Kirtley took his place in that match.

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Anderson injury takes shine off England's day

Jonathan Agnew | 06:57 UK time, Saturday, 15 March 2008

Wellington: day three of second Test - I watched James Anderson emerge from the dressing room after the day's play and take part in a football game with most of the England squad - including the coach Peter Moores - as a warm-down exercise.

He then turned his ankle and left the ground on crutches.

It is hoped that he will be fit to bowl in New Zealand's second innings, but it beggars belief that one of only four bowlers should be playing football during a Test match, and this is clearly a matter that the coach must explain.

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Youngsters reinvigorate England

Jonathan Agnew | 07:41 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

James Anderson fully vindicated his recall to the England team in Wellington and you have to think that only bad weather can prevent England from levelling the series now.

They only need to add 250 more to their overnight score to make sure New Zealand are completely out of the game, and that would leave plenty of time for them to chip away and bowl the Kiwis out a second time.

The pitch is still giving seam bowlers a little help, but it seemed to be the bounce that the batsmen struggled to cope with on day two.

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Ambrose shows top order how to bat

Jonathan Agnew | 07:16 UK time, Thursday, 13 March 2008

Wellington: day one of second Test - There was an awful moment mid-afternoon when it seemed that all of England’s frailties from Hamilton had come back to haunt them.

Kevin Pietersen had just been bowled attempting an expansive drive which gated him, and England were 136-5.

From 79-0 at lunch, they had lost 5-57 in a manic period of uncertainty and poor cricket.

The ball seamed about ever so slightly for the honest hard-working paceman that bowled in the right place, but this was essentially a good pitch.

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Ruthless Vaughan axes Harmison and Hoggard

Jonathan Agnew | 06:22 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Wellington - By dropping his two most senior bowlers, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison, Michael Vaughan has certainly demonstrated his ruthless side.

This illustrates just how much he appreciates that his own position as captain is coming under pressure. He might have gone further and had a go at the batting line-up too, but this move will certainly send out a warning to those players who failed to come up to scratch in the first Test in Hamilton last week.

Vaughan called it the end of an era, and that suggests youngsters James Anderson and Stuart Broad will now get an extended run in the team.

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Seconds out... Test two

Adam Mountford | 05:30 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Test Match Special will be on the air every night from 2100 GMT bringing you ball-by-ball commentary on the second Test from Wellington.

As well as bringing you all the action, there are plenty of other things to look forward to during our coverage from the Basin Reserve.

During lunch on Thursday and Friday evening you will be able to hear and put your questions to the two men at the helm of cricket in England and New Zealand.

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Skulking into Wellington...

Phil Long | 14:07 UK time, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

It's been a sorry looking bunch of England supporters who've been skulking into Wellington over the last 24 hours with the fifth day Seddon Park massacre still fresh in their memories.

Yeah, England lose plenty of Test matches abroad, and too many to mention in the last couple of winters, but the whole Sunday morning capitulation after we'd witnessed the stirring deeds of Ryan Sidebottom and his band of fantastic catchers in Saturday's post-tea session has made defeat even more difficult to swallow.

But more of that later.

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Ask Bearders #165

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Bill Frindall | 14:24 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

Welcome to Ask Bearders, where Test Match Special statistician Bill "The Bearded Wonder" Frindall answers your questions on all things cricket.

Below are Bill's responses to some of your questions posed at the end of his last column and if you have a question for Bill, leave it at the end of this blog entry. Please do include your country of residence - Bill loves to hear where all his correspondents are posting from.

Bill isn't able to answer all of your questions, however. BBC Sport staff will choose a selection of them and send them to Bearders for him to answer.

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Don't doubt England heart

Graeme Swann | 13:38 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

Scroll down to read my answers to your questions

The media inquest has got into full flow following our first Test defeat in Hamilton, it would appear.

Of course, it was an intensely disappointing performance and result. The Kiwis bowled brilliantly first up and the cricket became very attritional – a run-rate of two an over is exceptionally slow – and, no, it didn’t make for very good viewing.

But the first three days is only the set-up for a Test match and it is at the business end, on days four and five, that things really count and with Ryan Sidebottom’s spell late on the fourth day we put ourselves firmly in with a shout of victory.

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Welcome to Welly-wood

Adam Mountford | 09:01 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

So the England team have moved on from Hamilton to Wellington after what was described in Monday's New Zealand Herald as a "dire effort" at Seddon Park.

The newspaper's cricket columnist Chris Rattue certainly enjoyed it - "It was a fabulous cricket contest in Hamilton and a brilliant result for New Zealand", he wrote.

An embarrassing Sunday for English cricket will long be celebrated in this part of the world - and English critics will be even less amused because this embarrassing loss came against a New Zealand side minus true world-class greats like Richard Hadlee or Martin Crowe"

Rattue went on: "Cricket suddenly has new heroes. It's difficult to recall a New Zealand team, especially of this order, dishing out a Test match hammering like this."

Traditionally, cricket has struggled to get the sort of attention here that the dominant sport of rugby does. But we travelled here on the same plane as the New Zealand team and it was interesting to see a far greater media presence to greet the Black Caps at Wellington airport than we have noticed so far on this tour...

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What next for England after dismal loss?

Jonathan Agnew | 11:10 UK time, Sunday, 9 March 2008

Michael Vaughan described this performance (I won't call it an effort) as unacceptable, but he was being polite. Actually, to slip to 77 for 9 was inept, and this was illustrated by the fact that Monty Panesar, the number 11, was then able to hang around quite comfortably for three quarters of an hour before defeat was sealed.

There were no excuses from Vaughan because there aren’t any to give. He disagreed with my view that England lacked energy throughout the game – but I will stick to my opinion. Something was lacking throughout, and I firmly believe that England took an early view that this was a slow, flat pitch – ‘a road’ – and once New Zealand’s batsmen made a good start, that the match would be a draw and they could move on to Wellington.

Vaughan did pay tribute to New Zealand’s tenacity – they kept coming at England throughout the game with bat and ball which only went to show what could be achieved with a more positive and bullish approach.

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Chainsaw at rugby after seesaw Test

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 21:36 UK time, Saturday, 8 March 2008

After the excitement of Ryan Sidebotttom’s hat-trick on day four of the Test in Hamilton, our Saturday evening took a more bizarre turn when we saw a man leaning out of a cherry picker, wielding a revved up chainsaw at a Super 14 rugby match.

I kid you not.

A number of the cricket media were invited to Waikato Stadium to watch the Chiefs take on South African side the Cheetahs.

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Sidebottom gives England hope

Jonathan Agnew | 07:26 UK time, Saturday, 8 March 2008

An astonishing final session saw New Zealand lose seven wickets as their attempt to set up a declaration backfired dramatically.

At tea they were coasting on 55 for 1 - their lead already an imposing 177 with Stephen Fleming looking in superb touch.

But a succession of excellent catches - two of them absolutely brilliant - turned the game on its head as Ryan Sidebottom, in front of his parents, took England's first hat-trick for four years.

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England endure spin examination

Jonathan Agnew | 06:14 UK time, Friday, 7 March 2008

A desperately attritional day nevertheless had its own fascination as New Zealand’s spinners, Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel, managed to tie England’s batsmen up in knots.

This was achieved not by sharp spin or awkward bounce, but through subtle variation which, in Vettori’s case in particular, was beautiful to watch.

His dismissal of Andrew Strauss was a classic example of left arm spin; tossing the ball well above the left-hander’s eye-line and daring him to drive. Strauss, who had barely moved onto the front foot at any stage of his workmanlike 43, was lured into the trap, drove expansively and was bowled.

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England pair need more work

Jonathan Agnew | 06:20 UK time, Thursday, 6 March 2008

England’s openers, Michael Vaughan and Alistair Cook, went some way to make up for a disappointing performance by the bowlers, but with two wickets down by the close there is still a great deal of batting to do in order to make the game safe.

Too often, it seems, we have queried the amount of preparation that goes into England's Test tours these days, especially last year's disastrous Ashes series, and we find ourselves doing so again now. Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard are so clearly performing below their best that they should be worried themselves.

Frankly, what they produced was not Test standard and nothing illustrated this more graphically than a despairing Vaughan opting for Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood to bowl in tandem for six overs after England had finally taken their first wicket of the day rather than recall one of his pacemen to finish off the innings.

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Sidebottom delights proud dad

Adam Mountford | 05:13 UK time, Thursday, 6 March 2008

We've already had a pretty good cast list on Test Match Special during the game at Hamilton, so if you haven't been staying awake to listen through the night here's what you've been missing.

One of the nicest moments so far was when Arnie Sidebottom joined us in the TMS box just moments after his son Ryan had taken his fourth wicket to end the New Zealand first innings - and he made quite a revelation.

"This is the first time I've seen him bowl live," he told Aggers. "It was difficult when he was at Yorkshire. Some would mumble he's only in the team because of his Dad, so I kept out of his way."

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Safe hands spur on England

Jonathan Agnew | 06:16 UK time, Wednesday, 5 March 2008

For a rather cumbersome, unathletic team, England had an outstanding opening day in the field in Hamilton, turning four half-chances into wickets to take the advantage.

This must be tempered, however, by the likelihood that Ian Bell will be unable to contribute much with the bat; he picked up a nasty knock on the right hand at short leg, and although nothing is broken, it is very swollen.

New Zealand should have been targeting a score in excess of 450 in very benign, lifeless conditions, but only two batsmen, Jamie How and Ross Taylor, played with the patience and discipline required.

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England must beat weakened Kiwis

Jonathan Agnew | 00:02 UK time, Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Michael Vaughan has admitted the obvious: that England have to start winning Test series with a measure of consistency which at least gives them a chance of regaining the Ashes in 2009.

It rather sums up England’s progress over the last couple of years that Tim Ambrose will become the seventh wicket-keeper to pull on the gloves since midway through the last Ashes tour.

Vikram Solanki only kept wicket for a couple of Twenty20 games in South Africa in September because Matt Prior was injured, and there are separate one-day and Test squads these days but even so - seven!

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TMS coverage of the first Test

Adam Mountford | 19:27 UK time, Monday, 3 March 2008

You may remember that the last time we broadcast from Hamilton the Test Match Special team were positioned towards the top of a rather shaky 100-foot scaffold, which rather disturbingly started to shake whenever anyone made their way to the top of the metal stairs at the side.

One person you may remember who didn't make that journey was Sir Ian Botham who refused to commentate for Sky television from the top. "I'll go in helicopters and planes but they're meant to fly - commentary boxes aren't!" he said.

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McCullum performance worth a 'Jesse'

Phil Long | 11:47 UK time, Monday, 3 March 2008

Is it just me or, in the seemingly endless cycle of England Test tours, does the trip to New Zealand slip quietly by every five or so years?

Admittedly it doesn't have the romance of trips to the Asian subcontinent, the hype of an Ashes tour or the swaying palm trees of cricket in the Caribbean but tours to this part of the world tend to be closely fought.

Although it will never match an Ashes tour for many English fans, the New Zealand tour is one that many look forward to with great expectation.

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Rocky road to Hamilton

Adam Mountford | 09:34 UK time, Sunday, 2 March 2008

After a very enjoyable week on the South Island watching England's warm-up matches at the picturesque University Oval in Dunedin, we return to the North Island and to Hamilton for the first Test.

Situated in the Waikato region, Hamilton has several claims to fame. It is New Zealand's hot air ballooning capital with its Balloons over Waikato festival attracting enthusiasts from all over the world every April, while the Fieldays Festival each June is the largest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere, welcoming more than a 120,000 people every year.

Perhaps less well known is that Hamilton helped give the world the Rocky Horror Show, the cult musical which has entertained millions since it was first premiered on the London stage in 1973, before becoming a film favourite two years later.

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Strauss profits as Shah loses out

Alison Mitchell Alison Mitchell | 16:12 UK time, Saturday, 1 March 2008

England batsman Owais Shah could be preparing for a quiet few weeks.

Andrew Strauss made just nine runs in his first two innings on tour in New Zealand, but his unbeaten 104 on the final day of the second warm-up match in Dunedin looks to have secured his recall for the first Test in Hamilton.

Strauss was dropped from the Test squad after failing to score a hundred in 25 successive Test innings, but reputation clearly counts for a lot, and his sharpness in the slips was sorely missed in Sri Lanka.

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