Part-time spinner Kane Williamson took two wickets, including that of Alastair Cook, just before stumps to put New Zealand firmly in charge of the series-deciding third Test against England at the end of the fourth day at Eden Park yesterday.
Ian Bell was on 8, while nightwatchman Steven Finn was dismissed in the final over of the day by Williamson for a duck to reduce England to 90-4 at the close, chasing an improbable 481 for victory and now needing to bat out the final day’s play today to scrape to a face-saving draw.
Cook, who had earlier been dropped on 1, and Bell had engaged in a war of attrition as they battened down the hatches in the final session after Jonathan Trott had been dismissed for 37 to swing the match firmly in New Zealand’s favor.
The England captain, whose mental strength would have been key to the visitors batting out the entire final day, was well set on 43 and seemingly content to see out play, when he inexplicably drove at a Williamson delivery and the ball flew to Dean Brownlie at second slip.
Finn fell to the first ball of the 53rd over when New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum placed eight players around the bat and Tim Southee took a catch that had struck the batsman on the wrist and rolled up his arm.
“Losing those two wickets at the end has made them favorites to win the game, but we have some good players in our dressing room, some good young players, and we have to believe we can save the game,” England batting coach Graham Gooch told reporters.
McCullum had declared the hosts’ second innings closed about 45 minutes after lunch on 241-6, after Peter Fulton became the fourth New Zealand batsman to score a century in each innings of a Test.
The declaration ensured England would need to break the world record for the highest successful run chase to win the match and the series after the first two games ended in rain-affected draws.
The highest fourth-innings score to win a game was the 418-7 that the West Indies compiled against Australia in 2003.
Only one side has scored more than 300 to win a Test at Eden Park.
The 34-year-old Fulton earlier steadied New Zealand after they wobbled with three wickets late on Sunday.
He hit out against the left-arm spin of Monty Panesar, dispatching him with contemptuous ease, and brought up his century with a glorious straight six into the northern stand off paceman Stuart Broad.
Fulton was eventually caught on the boundary by Joe Root for 110 and following his 136 in the first innings, he joined Glenn Turner, Geoff Howarth and Andrew Jones as New Zealand batsmen to have scored a century in each innings of a Test.
“Not sure it’s really sunk in yet,” Fulton said.
“I came off, then we were straight out there in the field, and had a pretty tough job ahead of us to try and get 10 wickets,” he said. “Haven’t had too much time to think [about] it, but clearly a pretty special day.”