Hamish Rutherford made an impressive 171 in his maiden Test innings against England and put his side in a commanding position. (Getty Images)
Dunedin: About a year ago, New Zealand opening batsman Hamish Rutherford was spending his days working in a coffee shop unsure of when his next first class game would be. On Friday he stormed off University Oval having achieved the second highest score by a New Zealander on Test debut, furious he had been dismissed for 171 and not been able to add to his side's imposing first innings lead over England.
As it was, New Zealand finished the rain-shortened third day of the first Test with a 235-run lead over the tourists after posting 402 for 7. "A year ago I wasn't even playing for Otago so to debut like I have is special, especially in front of my home crowd," Rutherford told reporters after he posted the highest score by any opener on debut against England.
"There were a few dark times where things go through your head, but I started working in a coffee shop and doing some bar work (and) I started to get more life enjoyment through playing cricket as opposed to looking at it from a work point of view. Cricket is not a be-all-and-end-all. We're not saving babies at the end of the day."
Rutherford's simple approach to his cricket was evident in a 217-ball innings that was bristling with aggression, exemplified by 22 boundaries and three sixes, yet also showcased an unerring acceptance of how he best played his game.
The balls he needed to leave, or defend, he did. The balls he needed to take on the body, he did. The balls he felt needed to be slashed to the boundary were dispatched, even if several did flash dangerously close to outstretched hands.
While his runs came from all around the ground, his highlight reel was dominated with shots through the offside, with 71 of his runs coming from backward point through to extra cover.
One shot in particular, an exquisitely timed drive off Steve Finn rocketed to the extra-cover boundary to bring up his century.
The 23-year-old did not go over the top in his celebrations, jogging down the pitch with his arms in the air to accept the congratulations of team-mate Kane Williamson as the crowd rose to their feet.
He quickly settled, however, and refocused his attentions on continuing to build New Zealand's lead. "After you get a hundred you need to reset and start at zero ... so from a team point of view I had to kick on as long as possible ... (and) I was quite angry (when I got out)," he said.
New Zealand's opening partnership of Rutherford and Peter Fulton had been considered a gamble with the left-hander making his debut while the tall Fulton was playing his first test since 2009.
The pair lay to rest any concerns with a 158-run opening partnership on a good batting wicket before Fulton was dismissed for 55. England pacemen James Anderson and Finn, both considered key to putting pressure on the untested pair, upped the ante on Friday, Rutherford said, but he was pleased that he had managed to withstand their onslaught.
"They're world class bowlers. They obviously came hard at myself and Fults early on, which was always going to be the case," he said. "But I just tried to keep it simple (and) it shows the theories, processes and techniques I've used over the last couple of years are good enough for international cricket.
"That's the big outcome from this innings. Obviously I'll look to improve; I know I need to do that, but at the moment things are looking good."