New Zealand debutant Luke Ronchi proved that good things come to those who wait after topscoring on a thrilling opening day’s play at Headingley.
The 34-year-old wicket-keeper replaced the injured Corey Anderson in New Zealand’s team for the second Test of the series and led the fightback with a remarkable innings of 88.
In smashing three sixes and 13 fours, Ronchi played out an enterprising knock that rescued the tourists from a precarious 144-5 and took them to 297-8 at the close of play. Despite a 13-year wait to finally pull on a black cap, Ronchi was able to keep nerves to a minimum on his first international appearance.
“I have always wanted to play Test cricket as long as I have ever known to love cricket, so it’s pretty cool,” said Ronchi.
“Test cricket is the pinnacle, everyone wants to play Test cricket so I’m not taking it for granted.
“I was more than happy to wait and I’ve been lucky enough to have been given this chance.
“We’ve had a good day and hopefully we’ll have another good four days.”
Having arrived at the crease with New Zealand in trouble, Ronchi delivered a brutal display of power hitting to outscore partner Tommy Latham in a 120-run partnership.
However, Ronchi’s wicket – when he lifted Stuart Broad’s short ball straight to record-breaking James Anderson at fine leg – signalled the start of a fightback, as the first day closed with the teams evenly poised.
Despite admitting his mind had begun to dream of a debut century, Ronchi was more than pleased to have rescued his country from a precarious position earlier in the day.
“I wouldn’t play it again any differently. Sometimes you think you wouldn’t play the pull or hook shot as much, but I’m happy with getting 88,” said Ronchi, who also became the first ever man named Luke to play Test cricket.
“For me, as a 34-year-old going out for my first Test, I was just trying to go out and enjoy the experience.
“I might never play another test so I would have hated to be nervous and not play naturally.”
With his side in trouble, he took the game to the England attack – most notably spinner Moeen Ali – in a 99-ball knock, which finished with a strike-rate of 125.
But it was Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum that set the tone for the aggressive innings after smashing Stuart Broad for six on his first ball, despite Ross Taylor’s dismissal leaving his side on 68-3.
McCullum then went on to waste a good start when he hit Ben Stokes straight to Mark Wood at mid-off with the first ball after tea. But Ronchi said there was no criticism from within the dressing room towards the captain.
He said: “That’s the way he is doing it at the moment and you can’t stop it. He plays some amazing shots and then he plays some awful shots as well.
“It’s the best way to play cricket to back your natural ability.
“That’s just the way it’s working.
“He’s telling us to go out and play freely and I can’t see that changing.”