Cricket: NZ under pressure after loss of wickets

By David Leggat

Crunch day in test looms after England's seamers make early breakthroughs

A character examination lies ahead for New Zealand's batsmen at the Basin Reserve today.

On what is shaping as the pivotal third day of the second test, England made a serious incision in the final hour yesterday in fading light to have New Zealand 66 for three, in reply to their solid first innings 465.

Losing opener Peter Fulton, pushing away at a short ball from Jimmy Anderson to be caught at first slip was one thing; having Hamish Rutherford and Ross Taylor depart in consecutive balls was quite another.

The follow-on mark is still 200 runs away. England's tails are up and New Zealand will need to be smart and resourceful today.

Where New Zealand's seamers had struggled to trouble England's batsmen for large chunks of their innings, the extra pace and bounce of Steven Finn, the precision, aggression and smarts of Anderson and Stuart Broad was in marked contrast.

Rutherford got a working over, from Finn in particular, over his 94 minutes at the crease. He seemed to have got through the initial challenge, only to drive at a delivery from Broad to give Alastair Cook a second catch at first slip.

Taylor got a good ball, which straightened on him just enough to beat the stroke. It was Taylor's second golden duck in his 45th test and put the skids under New Zealand.

The light had become gloomy, Taylor's eyes perhaps hadn't adjusted. It was an important moment. The first test at Dunedin showed that there is more to New Zealand's batting than their No 1 batsman.

However when he misses out, questions still linger over how New Zealand will compensate. Today will help give an answer.

Dean Brownlie survived the hat-trick delivery, accompanied by four slips and two gullies, and much depends on how he and Kane Williamson, who was watchful and looked in decent touch over 108 minutes, get through this morning.

Earlier New Zealand's bowlers had more to enjoy than a day earlier.

They took England's last eight wickets for 198 although the circumstances were different, England looking to press on.

No one enjoyed it more than the left arm spinner Bruce Martin who had a decent duel with England's cavalier-in-chief Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen determined to dictate from the off, sending Martin's first ball of the day for six. However Martin stuck at it, had the tall righthander in a pickle once or twice and got his reward when Fulton pouched a catch at deep mid off.

The quick departure of Ian Bell and Joe Root in the space of four Martin overs briefly looked to have undermined the first day's work, however Matt Prior isn't rated the most proficient No 7 wicketkeeper-batsman for laughs.

His 82 off 99 balls was just the ticket for England. His standing ovation, both for the innings and the impetus it injected into England's situation was well justified.

Martin didn't get that kind of recognition from the crowd, but he's now taken nine wickets in his first three test innings. He would have had a prized five wickets, but for Prior surviving an lbw decision on a referral.

The 32-year-old has his detractors, but Martin got some turn, plugged away determinedly through 48 overs, conceding less than three runs an over.

Martin's had a long wait, this being his 14th first-class season. He's fully entitled to savour the moment.

- NZ Herald

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