England on the ropes
AUCKLAND – England were left on the brink of a series defeat to New Zealand after a disappointing day in Auckland today.
England might have defied the hosts in the opening Test in Dunedin after a superb backs-to-the-wall display. However their task in the deciding Test seems near-impossible after Alastair Cook, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott and Steven Finn all fell on day four.
A century from Peter Fulton and a quick-fire 67 not out from Brendon McCullum earlier in the day had seen New Zealand reach 241 for 6 declared – leaving England needing an improbable 481 to win in 143 overs.
And it took New Zealand just nine deliveries to strike, with Compton pushing forward to Tim Southee and edging low to BJ Watling.
The New Zealand wicketkeeper missed a sharp chance to send Cook back, however he made no mistake to remove Trott (37) off Neil Wagner.Cook and Ian Bell did their best to frustrate the hosts and they looked on course to see out the day until Kane Williamson struck twice late on.
First he removed the England skipper, with Dean Brownlie holding a superb catch to end Cook’s 145-ball resistance for 43, while New Zealand were celebrating again as Southee brilliantly caught nightwatchman Steven Finn.
That left England at 90 for 4 at stumps, with Bell eight not out after 89 balls.
Earlier Fulton had become only the fourth New Zealander to hit two hundreds in the same Test, with the opener smashing a brutal 110 including 14 fours and five sixes.
England did remove Brownlie for 28, with Bell holding on to the catch off Monty Panesar, however that saw McCullum enter the fray.
The New Zealand captain brought his half-century up off just 45 balls as he and Fulton went after the England attack.
They shared a stand of 117 in 101 balls until Fulton, who had been dropped on 18, pulled Finn to Joe Root at long-on.Panesar then claimed the wicket of Watling (18) – this time Compton took the catch – to force the declaration. (Sky)††