Henry takes 7-23 as NZ bowls out Proteas for 95 in first Test


When Matt Henry woke up in his Christchurch hotel room on Thursday it was to a day of warm promise. He was about to play his 15th Test match for New Zealand in a stop-start career of seven years and to do it in his hometown in front of friends and family.

He looked forward as a new-ball bowler to the chance of bowling first on a green seaming pitch at Hagley Oval. All he needed was for his captain Tom Latham to win the toss.

Latham did — for the first time in a half-dozen matches as New Zealand captain. A little more than four hours later Henry had taken career-best figures of 7-23 and South Africa had been bowled out for 95, its lowest score against New Zealand.

The high promise of the morning had been thoroughly fulfilled.

Henry had raced through the South Africa order, taking three wickets before lunch to leave the Proteas 44-4, then four more including two with consecutive deliveries in the second session before the innings ended in the 50th over, well before tea.

By stumps on the first day of the first test, New Zealand was 116-3, leading by 21. Henry Nicholls was 37 not out, the highest score of a first day on which 13 wickets fell, and South Africa-born Neil Wagner, the night watchman, was 2.

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Nicholls shared a vital 75-run partnership with Devon Conway for the second wicket which steered New Zealand into the lead. Conway, also South Africa-born and playing against his countrymen for the first time, was out for 36 just before stumps.

New Zealand went into the match with a patchwork batting lineup in the absence of captain Kane Williamson who is still laid low by an elbow injury and Ross Taylor, who retired last month from test matches.

Williamson and Taylor jointly represent almost 15,000 runs, 198 tests and 43 centuries. It was 2008 when New Zealand last played without the two of them in the lineup.

New Zealand held all its chances as Nicholls assembled his seven-wicket haul. He took advantage of the tentative play of the South Africa batsman on a green pitch, pitching short of a length and close to off stump, forcing batsmen to play at deliveries which seamed away. Six of his victims were caught behind the wicket and one was lbw.

Henry was only called into the New Zealand team on Wednesday to replace Trent Boult who is on paternity leave. His appearances for New Zealand have been sporadic since his debut in 2015 and he was determined to make the best of his chance on his home ground.

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“I think every bowler was kind of licking their lips when you win a toss like and you want to get out there and do the job,” Henry said. “But we knew we had to put the ball in the right area and it was just great that the nicks seemed to carry.

“I found out yesterday (that I’d be playing). It was great to get the nod and obviously playing here at the home ground, Hagley, and to have friends and family was nice too.”

Henry began with the wicket of South Africa captain Dean Elgar in the second over of the day which foreshadowed things to come. He pitched short of a length and the Proteas captain was drawn forward to drive with the bat well ahead of his body. The ball moved away late off the seam, took the outside edge and Southee held a difficult, low catch at third slip.

Henry was a master in familiar conditions. He moved the ball away late from Aiden Markram and it took a thick outside edge before carrying to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell. Having twice been reprieved by the DRS which upheld the umpire’s not out decisions in his favor, Markram again tried to use it to his advantage. He reviewed but replays showed a clear edge.

Henry’s figures might have been even better. Zubayr Hamza offered him a sharp chance for a catch off his own bowling which he dropped as he reached down with his right hand. He quickly made amends when Hamza, then 25, was caught in Henry’s next over to leave South Africa 85-6.


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