Andrew Strauss’s second fifty of the match took England closer to a come-from-behind win against New Zealand in the second Test at Old Trafford yesterday.
At press time England were 228 for two needing chasing a victory target of 294.
And, having been outplayed for much of the match, there was now a chance England could go 1-0 up in this three-Test series with a day to spare.
Middlesex batsman Strauss, whose 60 was the lone top-order highlight in a meager first innings 202, was 102 not out with Hampshire’s Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on 23.
It looked as if England might get through the session without losing a wicket until captain Michael Vaughan was caught behind for 48 after a stand of 90 with Strauss.
England resumed yesterday on 76 for one, left-hander Strauss 27 not out and Vaughan unbeaten on 12.
No side had ever made more to win an Old Trafford Test than the 231 for three England posted against the West Indies four years ago.
The pitch was taking turn — New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori had taken five wickets in the first innings and rival left-arm spinner Monty Panesar six in New Zealand’s second innings 114.
But Strauss and Vaughan, unlike England’s batsmen in the first innings, were running hard to take singles and turn ones into twos as runs, which had seemed so difficult to come by, began to arrive briskly.
Vettori showed he remained a threat by twice beating Vaughan, who had driven him four, on a pitch where the bounce was increasingly variable.
New Zealand wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum didn’t help his team’s cause when his wild shy at the stumps went for four overthrows.
There was a sense of momentum shifting, with Strauss completing a 105-ball fifty when he steered Iain O’Brien to third man for his fourth four.
All-rounder Jacob Oram, whose eight first innings overs cost a mere five runs, was brought into the attack with England 119 for one.
He hadn’t bowled at all on Sunday after landing awkwardly on his shoulder during a warm-up fielding session and injuring his neck.
The medium-pacer soon settled into a good line and length, twice beating the England skipper outside off-stump in his first over yesterday.
However, the introduction of pace bowler Chris Martin gave New Zealand the wicket they needed desperately when Vaughan, driving loosely, edged to McCullum to leave England 150 for two.
Pietersen survived a scare shortly before lunch when a Vettori ball struck him on the boot and bounced over his stumps for four runs.
six of the best
Northamptonshire spinner Panesar’s haul of six for 37 on Sunday was his best innings return in Test cricket and included his 100th Test wicket.
It kept England in a match where they’d conceded an initial lead of 179 after, for the 11th straight Test, they’d failed to reach the first innings benchmark total of 400.
Vettori’s five for 66 was the second innings in a row he’d taken five wickets after his man-of-the-match winning effort in the drawn first Test at Lord’s.
Ross Taylor had set-up New Zealand’s strong early position with a career-best 154 not out.