Dunedin delight for Cook and Compton
Alastair Cook and Nick Compton achieved notable personal landmarks by striking centuries in a record-breaking partnership of 231 that gave England a strong chance of saving the first Test with New Zealand at Dunedin's University Oval.
The tourists, surprisingly dismissed for just 167 at the start of this match, began their second innings 293 runs in arrears following a New Zealand declaration 43 minutes into the fourth morning.
Under severe pressure, albeit on a flat surface that offered little encouragement to bowlers of any variety, Cook and Compton exhibited patience and determination in abundance to haul their team towards safety. England will accordingly begin the final day of five in a much-improved position at 234 for one.
Cook, unflappable as ever and ruthlessly efficient square of the wicket, was able to celebrate a 24th five-day hundred, his sixth in seven games as captain, that gives him a full set against the Test-playing nations he has faced (all bar Zimbabwe).
The left-hander fell for 116 shortly before stumps, but not before he and Compton had surpassed Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare’s 223-run alliance at The Oval in 1983 to claim the highest England opening stand against New Zealand.
A further three runs were added following Cook’s departure, the first of those bringing sheer delight for Compton - and his watching father Richard - as he brought up his maiden Test ton.
If the skipper’s typically efficient progress was impressive, then his partner at the top of the order deserves the highest praise for a gritty knock that illustrated precisely why he was selected as Andrew Strauss’ replacement.
On the back of a prolific domestic season with Somerset, Compton shared in a host of valuable stands with Cook on the pre-Christmas tour of India, without going on to the substantial score he craved.
Today that score arrived and it could hardly have been more timely given England’s perilous position at the start of the day.
Further work lies ahead if a fourth successive opening-Test defeat on away soil is to be avoided, but England can take great heart from their comfortable second-innings progress thus far. Neither Cook or Compton offered a chance prior to the former being caught behind off Trent Boult.
Compton, on a pair from the first innings, endured the best part of an hour in the nervous nineties, but eventually made it to three figures in the penultimate over of the day.
His time at the crease was highlighted by a handful of classy strokes through the covers, although the 29-year-old remained understandably watchful in the main when blunting a Black Caps attack that toiled away manfully without ever offering much of a threat.
Steven Finn came in as nightwatchman for England after Cook’s exit, which followed almost 85 overs of steady accumulation.
The tempo was very different when New Zealand swiftly added 58 to their overnight 402 for seven, with Brendon McCullum and Bruce Martin reaching 74 and 41 respectively.
Live Text Commentary
4:45am - STUMPS - Eng 234/1; Compton 102, Finn 0 - England’s newest Test centurion and Finn make it through to the close, rounding off a tremendous day for the tourists - even with the late dismissal of captain Cook. New Zealand were firmly on top after declaring 293 ahead, but their lead is now a mere 59 and England still have nine wickets in hand heading into the final day. Can they rescue a draw? Join us tomorrow to find out.
4:37am - CENTURY! Compton (259b 10x4 0x6) - What a moment this is for Nick Compton! After spending an age in the nineties he nudges a leg-side single off Southee to bring up a magnificent hundred. He has exhibited grit and determination in abundance today and deserves immense credit.
4:33am - WICKET! Cook c Watling b Boult 116; Eng 231/1 - A wicket for New Zealand in the dying embers of the fourth day! It’s not Compton who falls; captain Cook nibbles at a length ball from Boult to be caught behind, prompting the arrival of Steven Finn as nightwatchman.
4:28am - Goodness me - Southee beats Compton all ends up with the ball of the day, a brute of a delivery that reared up past the outside edge. Deep breaths everyone...
4:25am - This is now England’s joint-highest opening stand against New Zealand, equalling the 223 put on by Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare at The Oval in 1983. Four overs are left in the day and Compton needs four more for a hundred. It's tense!
4:16am - Never mind Compton’s nerves - I’m having kittens here! The right-hander is almost run out himself on this occasion when taking another risky run against Boult, who has the second new ball.
4:10am - Careful Compo - don’t run out the captain!! Cook only just makes it home after being called through for a quick single by a player who may understandably be feeling one or two nerves!
4:07am - Martin over-pitches and Cook, in no mood to miss out on such gifts, drives handsomely through the off side. Compton would love a freebie or two, but none are forthcoming at present and he can only muster a single to get to 93.
3:58am - Can Compton follow his partner to three figures? The new ball will be available in four overs, so he may be keen to get the eight he needs for a ton before then.
3:51am - CENTURY! Cook (221b 13x4 0x6) - Another cut takes Cook to 99 and he then sweeps Martin through backward square-leg, sparking joyous celebrations from the healthy English contingent in Dunedin. That’s a 24th Test century for the left-hander and a sixth in seven matches as captain. He is truly remarkable.
3:45am - It is not just Cook who has three figures in his sights. Compton reaches 85 when swatting Tim Southee down to the fine-leg rope and then dispatches a full-toss from the returning Kane Williamson.
3:39am - New Zealand just cannot find a way to break this partnership, which is now nearing 200. There are 16 overs to come in the day and the wicket looks to have lost all life.
3:26am - Cook rides some extra bounce from Trent Boult to collect four through backward point. The captain then finds the boundary with a cut (again!) off Martin to move to 92.
3:11am - After a prolonged period that saw no movement whatsoever, the odd delivery is now starting to reverse swing, with the ball more than 60 overs old. Neither batsman looks overly troubled, though, and another Compton drive reaches the cover boundary. Wagner responds by going back over the wicket and duly beats the bat.
3:01am - Ooh, that was close! Another inside edge from Cook cannons into the batsman’s back leg. For a moment I thought that was going on to hit the stumps.
2:58am - Compton looks good again when driving Wagner through the covers. He is now just 26 runs shy of a maiden international hundred, while Cook - who holds the record for England Test tons - has 75 to his name and remains as solid as ever.
2:49am - It was a real surprise to see Alastair Cook depart to a poorly executed cut shot in the first innings. He is usually so strong when playing cross-batted through the off side and has looked back to his old self today. A ropey delivery from Wagner is put away with ease, although there is a muffled cry for lbw next ball when Cook inside-edges onto pad.
2:44am - An authoritative drive from Nick Compton off Wagner beats the fielder at short cover and races to the fence. Martin is then dabbed through backward point for two to take Compton level with his partner on 66.
2:35am - Neil Wagner displays an eagerness to pitch the ball up as the post-tea action begins with a maiden.
2:10am - TEA - Eng 139/0; Cook 64, Compton 60 - No further alarms and this is now England’s highest opening stand in New Zealand. Another wicket-free session would make this a wonderful day.
1:59am - Compton has looked more fluent since bringing up his half-century, yet Williamson once again causes a minor scare when an inside edge onto pad drops safely to the left of short-leg. Tea is fast approaching.
1:49am - Perhaps unsurprisingly, McCullum is experimenting with a few unorthodox field placings in an attempt to make something happen. Tim Southee is given two slips, two gullies and a shortish point when bowling to Cook, who remains unflustered and pulls a tame bouncer for four.
1:44am – The part-time off-spin of Kane Williamson is introduced. His is not the most fluent action, but he has been known to pick up the odd wicket and Compton almost pays for a lapse in concentration when playing and missing on the cut.
1:37am - FIFTY! Compton (143b 5x4 0x6) - On a surface that has offered no encouragement, Martin has operated with impressive accuracy and consistency. Compton is finding singles hard to come by as a result, but a clip towards the leg-side rope results in three runs that take him to 50. Well played sir.
1:29am - Brendon McCullum is rotating his bowlers, but a wicket continues to elude the hosts, despite England getting stuck on 111 for a while.
1:16am - A shoddy misfield from Peter Fulton at cover allows Compton to claim three more. Two-metre Peter went down in instalments there...
1:13am - Drinks come and go to mark another hour without a wicket. The threat from New Zealand’s attack has diminished somewhat. This is no time for England to relax, however.
1:01am - Clever from Martin, who spears in a surprising quicker ball that Compton does well to block. The spinner is not finding any turn, so his main threat comes from variation of pace.
12:49am – CENTURY PARTNERSHIP & FIFTY! Cook (98b 6x4 0x6) - Cook brings up the England hundred with a cover-driven two and then tucks Martin away for a leg-side single to reach 50. Keep going skip...
12:43am - England have done superbly in their second innings up until now, but will be aware that they still have a huge amount of work ahead of them. For the time being, there appears little to concern Cook and Compton on a flat surface, but it would only take one magic ball - or a mistake - to change that.
12:36am - That’s better from Compton, who takes on a Wagner short ball on this occasion and collects a boundary behind square on the leg side. Wagner switches to over the wicket and concedes four more when a thick edge evades the gully fielder.
12:27am - Neil Wagner comes round the wicket to Nick Compton and discomforts the right-hander with a bouncer, while Cook twice sweeps Martin to the boundary from outside off. England are up to 74.
12:14am - Bruce Martin continues after lunch and is cut away for four by Alastair Cook. How many times have we seen that shot over the years?
11:32pm - LUNCH - Eng 58/0; Cook 25, Compton 25 - There’s no turn for Martin and no second-innings wicket as yet for New Zealand. England remain behind the eight-ball but can take great heart from the efforts of their opening pair this morning. Cook, in particular, looked better and better as the session wore on.
11:24pm - A pulled two from Cook takes England past 50. Bruce Martin will have a twirl prior to lunch...
11:15pm - It’s usually a good sign when Cook gets his cover drive working smoothly. An effortless push off Wagner brings his second four. Southee is finding a better rhythm now and beats Compton with an absolute beauty. The batsman would have done well to nick that.
11:04pm - REVIEW - New Zealand’s seamers have veered onto Cook’s pads a little too often thus far. Southee almost gets Compton in the same manner as the first innings when a bottom edge misses the stumps. There is a huge appeal for a catch down the leg side next ball, but a home review proves ill-advised with no evidence of a nick.
10:54pm - The openers have appeared comfortable in the main, although Compton is guilty of a false stroke as he attempts to play Wagner off the back foot. The ball narrowly eluded the outside edge, much to England’s relief. Boult changes his angle of attack by coming round the wicket to Compton, but only for one delivery.
10:41pm - After nudging Boult through midwicket for two in typically unfussy fashion, Cook is a little fortunate to see an edge drop short of second slip. England pick up another boundary as Compton helps a wayward delivery from Wagner down to fine-leg. That will be drinks with England having reached 29 for no wicket.
10:32pm – A controlled edge from Compton runs down to third man, taking the opener into double figures. He has looked good thus far, moving his feet well and defending with certainty. Neil Wagner, who claimed wickets with his second and third deliveries in the first innings, replaces Southee and concedes a solitary single to Cook.
10:19pm - Compton is beaten when pushing nervously outside off at a length ball from Boult. In the seamer’s next over the Somerset man produces a wonderful back-foot punch that races away to the cover fence.
10:06pm - Nick Compton pushes Trent Boult down the ground for the first runs of the innings, but the left-armer has Cook in a bit of trouble with one that nips away and clips the back pad. England’s skipper drives Southee backward of point before surviving an lbw appeal. Thankfully there was a big inside edge there otherwise Cook was gone for all money.
9:57pm - The equation for England is quite simple now. They need to bat, bat and bat some more. And after that, they should keep on batting. Tim Southee finds a bit of shape in an opening maiden to Alastair Cook.
New Zealand Innings
9:43pm - WICKET! Martin c Prior b Finn 41; NZ 460/9 - Finn takes over from Anderson and wastes little time in having Martin caught behind off a short ball. New Zealand immediately declare with a lead of 293.
9:40pm - A third man is put in place, yet that does not stop Martin from playing deliberately over the slips - and wide of the boundary fielder - for four more. He could well get a debut fifty here.
9:35pm – The hosts move past 350 as Martin edges down to third man for a second time this morning. A brutal drive from the number nine almost wipes out Ian Bell at cover three balls later, while Neil Wagner is up and running as New Zealand bat on.
9:25pm - WICKET! McCullum c Anderson b Broad 74; NZ 447/8 - Martin, who has a first-class hundred to his name this season, is not exactly suffering in comparison to his captain. He thumps Anderson through extra-cover on the up, but England strike in the next over as McCullum sends one into orbit off Broad to be caught at mid-on. That was a fine innings from New Zealand’s leader, spanning just 59 balls.
9:18pm - Broad finds a better length, but is frustrated as McCullum edges past first slip for four. A slap to the deep point boundary then falls just short of a diving Nick Compton before a nick from Bruce Martin also lands safely and runs away to the third man rope. Martin is duly hit by a short ball yet responds with a sweetly timed pull through midwicket.
9:13pm – Another short ball leads to another pulled six for McCullum, this time off Anderson. When the leader of England’s attack pitches it up, he is driven back over his head for half a dozen more. This is precisely what the Black Caps would have been hoping for.
9:08pm - FIFTY! McCullum (47b 8x4 1x6) - You cannot bowl short at Brendon McCullum. After being beaten by a jaffa from Broad, New Zealand’s skipper pulls a bumper high over backward square-leg for a maximum that takes him past 50.
9:04pm - James Anderson, England's star performer yesterday, gets us underway, with Stuart Broad preferred to Steven Finn from the Northern End.
8:58pm - No declaration from New Zealand just yet. McCullum and Bruce Martin head out to the middle.
8:50pm - There is no more rain expected for the remainder of the match, which means we should see another 196 overs. Regardless of when New Zealand’s first innings is brought to an end, England will likely have to bat for around five sessions if they are to avoid defeat.
8:38pm - We will once again start half an hour early today in a bid to make up some of the overs lost in this game. Only 20 minutes of play were possible after tea on day three and New Zealand may well be considering a declaration in the near future, providing they are not bowled out. Skipper Brendon McCullum, unbeaten on 44, will lead the hosts’ search for quick runs.
8:30pm - After an opening-day washout and four subsequent sessions of New Zealand dominance, England began the long road to recovery in Dunedin yesterday afternoon. They are still up against it in the first Test of three, however, as the hosts will begin day four on 402 for seven in their first innings, leading by 235.