Despite play ending prematurely due to bad light and rain, New Zealand established a lead of 235 on day three as they built on their dominant performance from Thursday. Resuming on 131 without loss, the Black Caps suffered an early setback as Peter Fulton was removed by Jimmy Anderson for 55. However, this did little to affect debutant Hamish Rutherford’s progress, as he compiled his maiden Test hundred. He continued to punish England despite Kane Williamson falling to Monty Panesar for 24, but the rookie’s innings finally came to an end on 171 as he succumbed to the new ball, Anderson striking again. Dean Brownlie and Ross Taylor both made starts, but England were able to take regular wickets to get some semblance of a grip on the New Zealand innings. Stuart Broad chipped in with two wickets to leave the Kiwis seven wickets down at the close of play, but Brendon McCullum and Bruce Martin established a 32 run partnership to take their side past the 400 mark and leave them in a strong position.
As the son of a former New Zealand Test captain, Rutherford certainly has a fine cricketing pedigree, but on this performance he may well go on to eclipse his father’s Test figures by some margin. His score of 171 represented both the hightest debut innings against England, and the seventh highest debut score in history by any Test batsman. The 23-year-old has given his side a real chance of winning this match, and it would have particularly sweet for him to have made such a fantastic start to his Test career on his home ground. He was clearly disappointed when he eventually lost his wicket, but the ovation he recieved was richly deserved and he will undoubtedly look back on this innings with a great deal of pride. He will be hoping that in capitalising on the work done by the New Zealand bowlers, he will have done enough to ensure a win as well as a century on his first taste of Test cricket.
England need three more wickets before they can set about erasing the deficit created through both their own poor batting display and Rutherford’s fantastic innings. McCullum is dangerously poised and his partner Martin has two first class hundreds to his name, but if England’s bowlers can remove one of them early on day four then they will be confident of seeing off the remainder of the New Zealand tail. Anderson, who has figures of 4-108, has already spoken about batting until the game is safe, and the pitch is certainly not doing enough to suggest this is not a realistic proposition. That, of course, was the case in the first innings, when poor batting was England’s undoing. Application is key if England are to avoid a surprise defeat that would leave them with a great deal of work to do to win the three-match series.