Peter Fulton scored his maiden Test century as he anchored New Zealand to an impressive 250-1 at the close of the first day of the series-deciding third Test against England at Eden Park yesterday.
Fulton, who shared in a 79-run opening partnership with Hamish Rutherford (37), was unbeaten on 124 with Kane Williamson on 83 at stumps, after England captain Alastair Cook won the toss and put the hosts in.
The 22-year-old Williamson, in sight of his fourth Test century, joined Fulton just five minutes before lunch and the pair combined to frustrate the England attack with a patient 171-run stand.
The hosts were 173-1 when they resumed after the tea break and Fulton moved to 99 when he got up on his toes and pulled a short Steven Finn delivery to the midwicket boundary.
England’s “Barmy Army” of traveling fans broke into their customary chants in an effort to unsettle the tall righthander, who spent nine balls on 99 and resisted the temptation posed by a succession of wide deliveries from paceman Finn.
Fulton broke the spell when he worked a ball from spinner Monty Panesar wide of mid-on for a single and permitted himself a low-key celebration, removing his helmet and raising his bat to acknowledge a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I did notice that, actually,” Fulton told reporters, when asked about the Barmy Army’s heckling. “I think it’s just good to have them here, really. I think traditionally in New Zealand our crowds don’t sort of make too much noise, so it was nice, I guess, to build a little bit of atmosphere for it.”
England captain Cook won his first toss of the Test series and chose to bowl on a drop-in pitch that showed green tinges and promised more bounce than the wickets in Dunedin and Wellington.
Cook’s fast-bowling trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Finn produced several anxious moments for Fulton and Rutherford in the morning session, but once the sun emerged and flattened out the pitch, New Zealand were barely troubled.
“Looking at the wicket this morning it looked like there was a bit in it for the bowler,” Finn said. “There was plenty of green grass on it, but that just seemed to be holding the wicket together rather than offering us assistance. We did expect it to do more than it did, but after realising that we stuck to our plans well. We only took one wicket, yes, but to keep them under three an over and not be too far out of sights is good.”
England’s only success on the placid Eden Park pitch came when Rutherford wafted at a wide delivery from Finn and nicked the ball to Cook at first slip shortly before lunch.
England were culpable for bowling a little too straight, and Fulton exploited that to the fullest, whipping the ball through the leg side for 98 of his runs.
The 34-year-old Fulton was particularly aggressive against left-armer Panesar, who was often too short of a length and allowed the tall righthander to rock back and belt him to the leg side boundary four times and over it twice.