England stung by Williamson double
The unlikely figure of Kane Williamson struck two blows late on day four of the decisive Test at Auckland’s Eden Park to leave England with a stiff task to save the game and series.
Williamson, an occasional off-spinner with 10 wickets in 22 Tests before this one, had Alastair Cook and nightwatchman Steven Finn held to sharp close catches in the closing overs.
With his side batting for a draw, Cook’s wicket for 43 was most detrimental to the tourists but that of scoreless Finn, whose rearguard at Dunedin helped to save the first Test, was also a significant setback.
Before Williamson’s interventions, England would have been content at the prospect of closing two wickets down with Cook, having shared a fifty partnership with Jonathan Trott, alongside Ian Bell. As it is, though, they are 90 for four, 391 behind.
Cook’s tourists must bat for 90 overs tomorrow to earn a 0-0 scoreline in the three-game rubber. Encouragement of that being possible is the drop-in pitch remaining flat today and more warm batting-friendly conditions forecast, albeit at a time when the rain that blighted the first two Tests would be welcome.
England’s work was initially cut out by New Zealand brilliantly setting up a declaration at 241 for six today, thanks chiefly to Peter Fulton’s second hundred of the game and his Test career. That the 34-year-old’s 13 five-day appearances have spanned six years makes his contribution all the more satisfying.
Having dug in to reach stumps on day three, the tall right-hander played himself in and then accelerated to a century - he reached three figures with a straight six off Stuart Broad - that contrasted with his steady first-innings ton.
From the depths of eight for three yesterday after the follow-on was not forced, Fulton took his overnight stand of 27 with Dean Brownlie to 72.
The opener, who was dropped on 32 by James Anderson at short midwicket, plundered regular boundaries down the ground while Brownlie was fluent in support.
In his first over of the day, Monty Panesar removed Brownlie for 28 thanks to an outstanding catch from Bell, who ran from mid-on towards deep midwicket to hold on.
Fulton’s fifty occupied 120 balls, 66 of which had taken him to 14 overnight, but he then launched a brutal attack with McCullum, who smashed Panesar for an enormous straight six, as the morning session yielded a mammoth 141 runs.
Milestones came in a hurry during the half hour after lunch: the century alliance arrived from 88 balls; Fulton brought up his hundred from 162 before holing out to long-on off Finn for 110, ending a pulsating stand of 117; McCullum’s fifty then occupied 45 deliveries.
BJ Watling’s downfall, via Nick Compton’s running catch at deep midwicket off Panesar, prompted the declaration, which came after a brief impasse in which McCullum clearly expected Tim Southee to appear.
Southee’s impact instead came with the ball when he had Compton caught behind in the second over. Neil Wagner broke Cook and Trott’s restorative stand, which spanned tea, in the same fashion - via Trott’s uncharacteristic loose drive away from his body on 37.
Cook and Bell settled the tourists, but Williamson had other ideas. Brownlie held on at second slip and Southee did likewise at gully to end proceedings five balls early.
Live Text Commentary
4:51am - WICKET AND STUMPS! Finn c Southee b Williamson 0 - Eng 90/3; Bell 8 - Following a seventh consecutive maiden, this one from Martin, Williamson has Finn caught at gully from the first ball of the day’s last over to end proceedings. With Finn surrounded by close fielders, Southee took an instinctive low catch. England trail by 391.
4:46am - Bell plays out a maiden to Boult and Finn does likewise to Williamson. Two overs remain today.
4:36am - WICKET! Cook c Brownlie b Williamson 43; Eng 90/3 - New Zealand strike a big blow and it is from the part-time spinner, thanks to Brownlie’s excellent reaction catch at second slip. Steven Finn is in as nightwatchman.
4:30am - More consecutive maidens, this time one each from Southee and Williamson. With around half an hour left today, England are 90 for two.
4:15am - Cook breaks the deadlock with two down the ground off Southee before Williamson returns with a maiden. McCullum is rotating his bowlers regularly in search of a breakthrough.
4:08am - Tim Southee takes over from Wagner with New Zealand’s third consecutive maiden and Martin bowls a fourth.
3:57am - Bell cuts Martin for four before Wagner returns with a maiden to Cook. Martin then beats Bell’s defence and the ball glances off his pad to slip. After a lacklustre appeal, New Zealand opt not to review.
3:46am - Martin delivers a runless over before Brendon McCullum calls on Kane Williamson’s occasional off-spin in place of Wagner, whose figures are 7-5-6-1. He bowls an unthreatening over ahead of a drinks break.
3:40am - Wagner completes two consecutive maidens during a quiet passage of play as Cook and Bell dig in.
3:24am - Bell opens his account with two through cover off Wagner, who is bowling over the wicket to him. Cook then pulls Martin for four.
3:17am - Martin and Wagner combine for three straight maidens, a sequence Cook breaks by pulling Martin for four. Bell is yet to score, but occupying the crease is most important for him and Cook.
3:09am - During a Wagner maiden, Ian Bell edges short of second slip but the ball bounces up and strikes Dean Brownlie in an unmentionable area, causing amusement for his team-mates if not Brownlie.
3am - WICKET! Trott c Watling b Wagner 37; Eng 60/2 - The left-armer comes round the wicket and Trott drives at a wide ball but gets a thin edge to the keeper. The third umpire is called to check a back-foot no-ball but replays show the delivery was legitimate.
2:51am - Following a quiet couple of overs Neil Wagner replaces Boult and bowls a maiden to Trott. Martin does likewise to Cook.
2:39am - Trott nudges Martin wide of mid-on for a single that moves England to 50. Trott’s two through the covers at the start of the next over, from Boult, heralds a fifty partnership.
2:35am - Play is under way again with Jonathan Trott tucking Bruce Martin for two to leg. Alastair Cook then sees out a Trent Boult maiden.
2:10am - TEA - Eng 45/1; Cook 19, Trott 24 - Martin has an lbw shout against Cook, who was struck well outside off stump. Boult then appeals for caught behind down leg against Trott, but the ball brushed pad rather than bat. England trail by 436 at the interval.
1:57am - Unlike earlier in the series, Martin is struggling to find a good length and Cook cover-drives him to the boundary.
1:48am - Left-arm spinner Bruce Martin replaces Boult and begins with a full-toss that Trott dismisses for four through midwicket. Cook’s first four comes by straight-driving Southee.
1:41am - Following two overs of consolidation, Trott punches Boult down the ground for four. These two batsmen are just the type you would choose to save a game.
1:30am - CHANCE - At the end of an over that began with a Jonathan Trott four, Cook - on one - edges Boult but wicketkeeper Watling cannot hold a difficult, low, left-handed opportunity.
1:20am - Cook opens his account with a single to fine-leg off Boult and then plays out a maiden to Southee.
1:10am - WICKET! Compton c Watling b Southee 2; Eng 2/1 - Trent Boult begins the innings with a maiden to Alastair Cook. A tentative Nick Compton, who took two to leg the ball before, then edges Tim Southee to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
New Zealand Innings
12:55am - WICKET AND DECLARATION! Watling c Compton b Panesar 18; NZ 241/6; McCullum 67 - Nick Compton clasps an excellent running catch at deep midwicket after Watling skies Panesar, who has taken over from Broad. After a moment’s hesitation in which next man Tim Southee does not appear, McCullum declares with a lead of 480.
12:51am - Watling picks up fours from the last two deliveries of the returning James Anderson’s over, with a straight drive and an outside edge.
12:40am - McCullum hits Finn for four wide of long-off and, next ball, pulls a maximum. Broad then bowls a maiden to Watling, who survives when he gets under a heave to third man that falls between two fielders.
12:35am - FIFTY! McCullum (45b 4x4 2x6) - BJ Watling announces himself by straight-driving Broad for four and, later in the over, a single raises McCullum’s half-century and the lead to 450.
12:27am - WICKET! Fulton c Root b Finn 110; NZ 199/5 - Immediately after hitting Finn for four over extra-cover, Fulton holes out to long-on. That was a brilliant display.
12:25am - CENTURY! Fulton (162b 13x4 5x6) - The opening batsman moves to 99 with a quick single and an overthrow before his second hundred of this game and Test career arrives via an emphatic straight six later in Broad’s over.
12:17am - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - With the field spread, Fulton gets two to mid-on to herald the joint milestone with McCullum. At the end of Steven Finn’s over, Fulton has 97.
12:15am - Play resumes with Peter Fulton taking singles at the beginning and end of Stuart Broad’s over. In between, Monty Panesar’s neat footwork denies Brendon McCullum a four to fine-leg.
11:30pm - LUNCH - NZ 76/4; Fulton 91, McCullum 44 - Although Fulton is in sight of a second hundred in the game, he continues to play selflessly against Anderson. A session yielding 141 runs ends with New Zealand 415 ahead.
11:19pm - Fulton mars an otherwise tight Anderson over with a last-ball maximum over long-off, extending the lead to 400. McCullum does likewise to a Panesar over with leg-side fours from the final two deliveries.
11:14pm - After Fulton charges Anderson for a rare off-side boundary, McCullum brutally clubs Panesar for a straight six that is monstrous even with such short straight boundaries. The captain then reverse-sweeps four more. Fulton ends Panesar’s over by clearing the long-off rope, raising the hosts’ 150.
10:57pm - McCullum has to take evasive action to avoid Fulton’s aerial four off Finn before the opener launches Panesar for a dead-straight maximum to move to 70. Not to be outdone, McCullum pulls the returning Anderson for six.
10:47pm - FIFTY! Fulton (120b 10x4 0x6) - Having pulled Finn for four, Fulton strikes Panesar down the ground to herald his half-century. He then consecutively sweeps boundaries, taking the Black Caps to three figures, and launches six over mid-on.
10:41pm - Brendon McCullum makes his intention clear by smashing his first ball behind point for four. Panesar, who has not conceded a run in his four overs during this innings, bowls a maiden to Fulton.
10:29pm - WICKET! Brownlie c Bell b Panesar 28; NZ 82/4 - Monty Panesar takes over from Broad and soon strikes as Brownlie goes aerial and Ian Bell, running from mid-on towards deep midwicket, takes a fantastic catch. That wicket-maiden ends a stand of 74.
10:27pm - Finn’s radar is slightly off today and he breaks the non-striker’s stumps before producing a brute of a bouncer to Brownlie, who survives.
10:21pm - Fulton, who aided four leg-byes off Finn in the previous over, twice whips Broad through midwicket for four. The opening batsman is in great touch.
10:11pm - CHANCE - Anderson spills a difficult low opportunity at short midwicket. Fulton, on 32, clips Broad aerially off the front foot but survives.
10:04pm - With the lead beyond 300, Steven Finn replaces Anderson.and starts with a tight over.
9:57pm - Fulton unfurls his third straight-driven four today, again off Anderson, to herald the fifty partnership.
9:52pm - Brownlie steers Broad to point for four. The hosts are scoring boundaries too regularly for England’s liking so far today.
9:47pm - A solid-looking Fulton drives Anderson for four down the ground to raise New Zealand’s fifty. They lead by 289.
9:43pm - Dean Brownlie, facing for the first time today, profits from Broad straying onto his pads with four to fine-leg.
9:39pm - James Anderson shares a 24-over-old ball with Broad. Fulton picks up two from the over. There is little sign of assistance for the seamers on a still true pitch.
9:33pm - Stuart Broad begins the day bowling to Peter Fulton, who straight-drives the over's penultimate ball for four.
9:20pm - The Black Caps will resume on 35 for three with first-innings centurion Peter Fulton on 14 and Dean Brownlie 13. It is another sunny day in Auckland, which looks as if it will avoid the rain that blighted the first two Tests.
9:10pm - New Zealand have had the better of the first three days, but losing three early wickets after not forcing the follow-on may have knocked their confidence. Further scalps soon today could lead to jitters that England can capitalise on.
9pm - Hello on day four of the decisive third Test at Auckland’s Eden Park. New Zealand lead by 274 with seven second-innings wickets left. Although that is a difficult position for England, quick wickets in the morning session will give them hope of victory.