Cricket: Black Caps six wickets from glory

By David Leggat

Six wickets. It's easier if you say it quickly. That is all that stands between New Zealand and a momentous test victory at Eden Park today.

A couple of months ago who'd have picked it, but the hosts have utterly dominated such large chunks of the third and deciding test that a stranger wandering into the ground would have assumed that the world rankings of No 2 and No 8 belonged to the 'other' team.

New Zealand are seeking their ninth win against England, offset by 45 defeats, in the ANZ international series, but this test has helped undermine those claiming a two-tier test system is the way to go.

England start the final day 90 for four. They have class batsmen and scrappers remaining in Ian Bell - who has parked a tent in the middle, on eight off 89 balls - and wicketkeeper Matt Prior, and talented tyros in Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.

They were set a winning target of 481 - and it would have been a record fourth innings chase - but forget that.

The pitch is wearing but far from unplayable and New Zealand will need to dig hard to extricate the wickets they need for their first series win over England since 1999.

The final impetus yesterday came from occasional offspinner Kane Williamson, who had England captain Alastair Cook sharply caught by Dean Brownlie at second slip, then added nightwatchman Steven Finn in the last over.

Williamson the bowling destroyer. All due respect, but that's a new one.

New Zealand's joy was understandable. Captain Cook is England's rock. It felt like two wickets had fallen with one delivery.

There are still potholes to be negotiated but no Cook walking out today should put fresh zing in the bowlers' tread.

This has been a season of both notable achievements - the test win in Colombo top of the list - and dog days, with a rancorous off-field issue to boot.

But if it's true that a team is remembered best for its final performance, New Zealand can look forward to a more enjoyable end of season than they might once have imagined - six wickets permitting.

From the time Peter Fulton and Brownlie then Brendon McCullum ensured the momentum would be high, New Zealand were all over England. Woeful England. New Zealand scored 206 runs at six an over yesterday before the declaration 45 minutes after lunch.

As Fulton and McCullum tore into England - 117 runs off 101 balls for the fourth wicket - they looked stone-cold motherless. They had no answers. At one point Cook had all nine fielders on the boundary. It was wave-the-white-flag stuff.

Fulton's triumph, 110 to follow his first innings 136, made it a day he won't forget. He magnanimously suggested he would "gladly give back the hundreds to get a win".

The first century was "a bit of a relief to finally tick that off". The second gave him more pleasure for the way he handled a tricky period on Sunday night and then "to come out today and have some fun at the end. In tests you don't get that chance very often".

Before the test McCullum talked of five tough days. Now there's just one.

Poised for victory

*New Zealand's last win over England was at Hamilton in 2008, by 189 runs. A win today would make it the third successive tour by England on which they've lost one test.

*The highest fourth innings total to win a test at Eden Park is the West Indies' 348-5 in 1969.

Read more:

Fulton's parents with him every shot of the way
Fulton an unlikely hero

Cartoon: Cricket drought

NZ's Big Day

10.33am
Peter Fulton's sweet on drive off the fifth ball of the day. Bogged down? Bog off.

11.18am
Fulton twice lofts Broad dismissively over mid-wicket to the fence in one over.

11.48am
After four successive maidens, spinner Monty Panesar is taken for 14 by Fulton, who sails past 50, clumping one ball high into the stand.

12.20pm
Fulton slams Anderson high for six over long off and New Zealand's lead reaches 400.

1.25pm
Fulton straight hits Broad for his fifth six to bring up his second hundred of the test.

1.35pm
McCullum scampers a single to raise his seventh 50 of the English tour, and New Zealand's lead is 450.

1.57pm
New Zealand declare, setting England 481, which would be the highest successful fourth-innings chase in test history.

2.11pm
Nick Compton falls to Tim Southee's third ball and New Zealand's march towards victory is up and running.

2.29pm
Alastair Cook, on one, is dropped by wicketkeeper Watling off Southee. Crucial?

4.00pm
Jonathan Trott edges Neil Wagner's 10th ball to Watling, who holds it. The door prizes open a little further.

4.26pm
The day's lighthearted moment as McCullum, at leg slip, flicked the ball back and flattened Watling behind the stumps.

5.36pm
Huge moment! Part-timer Kane Williamson induces an edge from England captain Cook, Dean Brownlie takes a screamer.

5.53pm
Williamson the destroyer. This time Steve Finn is brilliantly taken by Southee. Stumps are drawn.

- NZ Herald

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