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Cricket: Record stand brings tourists hope

Nick Compton on the drive. Photo / Getty Images
Nick Compton on the drive. Photo / Getty Images

A couple of assured 10.8cm wide slabs of timber brought England back into the first test against New Zealand and thwarted local hopes of pushing for a third victory in five tests at University Oval.

England enter the final day on 234 for one at the University Oval, requiring another 59 runs to make New Zealand bat again.

Little sneaked past the bats of Alastair Cook and Nick Compton on their way to producing a record opening partnership against New Zealand. They made 231, eclipsing the previous mark of 223 set by Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare at the Oval in July 1983. The pair's third century stand in 10 innings breathed life into England's cause. It highlighted why they are ranked No 2 in the world.

Cook scored his 24th test century, extending his hold over the title "most centuries for England", which he inherited last year in India. Boult had him caught behind for 116, less than three overs from stumps.

The second innings shaped as vital for Compton to prove his credentials as a test opener.

He entered facing the ignominy of a pair and exited with his maiden test century. In nine previous innings his best was 57.

The only moment to cause angst came from the third ball of the 16th over when Tim Southee had Compton flicking at a ball down the legside. The appeal for caught behind and subsequent review were rejected. No mark was revealed on the bat through hot spot.

Compton is not out 102; Steve Finn is yet to score as nightwatchman.

The opening pair worked the ball predominantly in an arc between extra cover to midwicket using the pace of the ball on a reliable fourth day wicket.

No boundaries and only a few singles went in the traditional 'V' although there was no shortage of high front elbows and decent strides towards the pitch of the ball.

Cynics might argue the play was soporific at times - some preferred to watch a drinking race on the embankment between patrons dressed as the pink panther and the cookie monster - but this was an emphatic statement by England. They demonstrated how to occupy the crease in the face of a 293-run deficit when New Zealand declared at 460 for nine. New Zealand's bowlers face the haunting prospect of again not taking a full 20 wickets, just like the two tests in South Africa.

Tim Southee and Trent Boult bounded out the dressing room door first but their enthusiasm was blunted by stoic resistance. The bowling attack struggled without the lively first innings pitch assistance.

Neil Wagner toiled, Bruce Martin looped the ball up and Kane Williamson threw in a few darts but none could coax a wicket.

It was a dispiriting end to a day that started so brightly for the hosts.

New Zealand batted decisively for 45 minutes to start the day.

Brendon McCullum continued a spirited first home test as captain, advancing from 44 to 74.

His innings lasted 59 balls but gave New Zealand's position further impetus. He was dismissed offering a steepler which took about four seconds for gravity to guide the ball into Jimmy Anderson's hands at mid-wicket.

England persisted in bowling short to McCullum. He obliged by dispatching them to the boundary.

His coup de grace was a six from Stuart Broad off the ninth ball of the day. It dented a bus waiting outside the ground in Logan Park.

Bruce Martin offered support, sharing an eighth-wicket partnership of 77.

Martin made 41 in his debut innings. He was the last batsman to fall.

Anderson finished the best of the England bowlers with four wickets for 137 from 33 overs.

New Zealand's initial lead of 293 was the seventh highest set in the country's test history. New Zealand has won four and drawn two of the tests where they'd set the six higher marks.

The will need early breakthroughs today to have any chance of improving that record.

- Herald on Sunday

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