New Zealand v England: Talking points as Fulton frustrates tourists
New Zealand v England: Harry Kemble looks at the talking points from the first day of the third Test in Auckland on Friday
New Zealand finished the day on 250-1 after being put in by Alastair Cook in Auckland in the deciding third Test. Only one wicket fell in 90 overs of play, with first Test hero Hamish Rutherford slashing at a wide delivery on 37. Cook’s decision had echoes of Brisbane in 2004 when Nasser Hussain asked Australia to bat on an apparent green-top, yet by the close of play, England had only taken two wickets with the score on 364. Cook can be forgiven though. The nature of drop-in pitches dictates that the surface will not break-up and the first innings of the match is the best time for the bowlers to extract anything from the surface. England will know that although they are not out of the match, the tourists will have to produce a “crazy” day, as Steven Finn put it, to give themselves a chance of winning the match and the series, which is locked at 0-0.
Finn’s run-up comes into question
Finn again lacked the penetration expected of him on another tame pitch. The paceman, who began using a shortened run-up during the limited-overs series, still has a lot to prove with the new method – he has only taken four wickets in the series. He was also vastly down on pace – his key weapon – in the final session. A shorter run-up seemed to be a master stroke when he took three for 27 at the same venue last month in the deciding ODI. But after another day of Test cricket where much was required of Finn, supporters will start to question if he is entirely happy with the move.
Fulton knocks England out of stride
Initially it was not pretty but “Two Meter Peter” won’t care. The 34-year-old journeyman of cricket, who was drafted into the team at the start of the series in place of the injured Martin Guptill, will not give a jot. Peter Fulton’s 124 not out was his highest score in 19 Test innings (his previous best was 75). Despite only averaging 20 in Test cricket and his height making him look cumbersome at the crease, he belied his critics to offer England only two half-chances all day on 12 and 28. The latter a top-edged hook that sailed for six over one of the shortest boundaries in world cricket – Eden Park doubles up as a rugby pitch. The Canterbury batsman will be hoping to bat long into the second day to make it as difficult as possible for him to be usurped on Guptill’s return.
England going into day two
Cook’s decision to bowl could still be vindicated if England can dismiss New Zealand for no more than 350 but it is a huge ask from the tourists’ tiring attack. A betting man will probably lean towards a draw if reports are correct that the pitch won’t break-up, even by the fifth day. England’s pace trio will have expected to leave behind all their tools to dismiss batsman on flat wickets in India. Yet, once more, they will need to patience, reverse-swing and large degree of nous to counter the hosts on another road of a wicket.