Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Black Caps within striking distance of victory

New Zealand are within striking distance of a second home series victory in 18 attempts over England at stumps on the fourth day of the final test.

The other series win was in February 1984. Let's put that into context: of the current team Peter Fulton was about to go to school, Brendon McCullum and Bruce Martin were toddlers and Ross Taylor was about to be born.

England is 90 for four, chasing an improbable 481 for victory with Ian Bell (8) and Joe Root to join him in the morning after nightwatchman Steve Finn was dismissed for a duck on the last ball of the day, caught by Tim Southee at silly point off Kane Williamson.

England lost opener Nick Compton for two before tea, caught behind off Southee.

Left-armer Neil Wagner followed up by having Jonathan Trott caught behind for 37 with his 10th ball of the innings. Wicketkeeper B-J Watling dropped a sharp chance off Alastair Cook in Southee's third over, diving one-handed in front of first slip.

Cook eventually made 43 before driving at part-time off spinner Williamson; Dean Brownlie pouched him at second slip.

Expect New Zealand's progress to contain a few struggles on a good batting wicket. They have been unable to bowl a side out twice in the four tests since victory against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November. That lack of success should change tomorrow.

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum stacked the slip cordon for his pace bowlers and crowded the bat for spinner Bruce Martin and later Williamson. He must have revelled in the opportunity to deliver the aggression he has so often sought a licence for.

The last overs included eight of the nine fielders placed around the bat. McCullum has persevered with the same bowlers, even with the return to fitness of Doug Bracewell.

They look like repaying his faith. Curiously it's the first time the same New Zealand XI has played together across an entire three-test series.

McCullum declared the New Zealand second innings at 241 for six, adding to a first-innings lead of 239. McCullum was unbeaten on 67 off 53 balls, while opener Peter Fulton hit 110, his second hundred of the test.

Fulton became just the fourth New Zealander to hit two centuries in the same test after Glenn Turner, Geoff Howarth and Andrew Jones.

Having started the day at 35 for three, leading by 274, New Zealand added a further 141 runs at 5.4 an over in the morning session to be 176 for four at lunch.

An England win would represent the highest successful fourth-innings chase in test history. Only four teams have scored more than 400 to win a test. The current record is 418 for seven by the West Indies against Australia at Antigua in 2003.

England have never chased down more than 332 in the fourth innings of a test (v Australia 1928). They've only successfully chased more than 300 three times. The highest winning fourth innings total at Eden Park is 345 (achieved by the West Indies in 1969).

- NZ Herald

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