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New Zealand’s Matt Henry made a memorable return to Test cricket in the opening match against South Africa and the 30-year-old said it was “surreal” to match a benchmark set by Richard Hadlee, who cheered him on at the Hagley Oval on Thursday.
Matt Henry Picked 7 Wickets vs SA
Henry’s seven for 23 blew away South Africa who were bundled out for 95, their lowest against New Zealand, and put the home side in the box seat.
Henry struck in just the second over of the Test match to dismiss the South African skipper Dean Elgar. He went on to dismiss both Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen as South Africa found no respite in the tour opener.
Eventually, the seamer helped New Zealand mop up the tail in quick fashion to finish with stunning figures of 7/23 – the joint-best ever by a New Zealander at home and the joint-third best overall.
Henry is joined by New Zealand great Richard Hadlee in the third spot just behind Ajaz Patel’s 10-fer against India late last year and Hadlee’s 9-52.
Zubayr Hamza, back in the South African starting line-up for the first time in two years, top-scored for the tourists with 25.
Henry, whose previous best was four for 93 against South Africa four years ago, has struggled to be a regular member of the New Zealand attack where Tim Southee and Trent Boult have long been the new ball bowlers.
Watch Matt Henry’s 7 wicket haul vs South Africa
Matt Henry on his record-breaking feat
“You’ve got to kind of pinch yourself a little bit when you hear those stats and to be able to share that with Sir Richard Hadlee is pretty special,” Henry said after the opening day’s play.
Henry admitted that it isn’t easy to stay motivated all the time considering he has the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson ahead of him in the pecking order.
Having made his debut almost seven years ago, the 30-year-old has featured in just 14 Test matches.
“It’s not always easy at times, but you try not to focus too much on those external things you can’t control and making sure I’m still in that mindset of just trying to keep getting better and using experiences where I am playing cricket that when I do get my opportunity to take it I suppose,” he said.
“That’s led me to where I am at the moment – where I can keep coming in and stay positive and not get too caught up in those external things and those noises.”
Even though Henry had picked up only a solitary Test wicket at his home ground prior to this game, he admitted the experience of playing first-class cricket at this venue came in handy.
“I think just playing here at Hagley and having that experience and knowing what my lengths were and how to operate,” he pointed out.
“As a bowling group I think we bowled really well together and we were able to create pressure at both ends and not really let them go anywhere, which is probably key to how we got the wickets.”
The hosts already have a lead of 21 by stumps on the opening day despite losing their top order.