England’s batsmen showed the resilience they had been lacking in their first innings to battle to a draw in the first of three Tests against New Zealand at University Oval yesterday.
The tourists, who had been bundled out for 167 in their first innings, were 421-6, a lead of 128 runs, when captains Alastair Cook and Brendon McCullum agreed a result was unlikely in the remaining 15 overs available on the final day.
Ian Bell, on 26, and wicketkeeper Matt Prior on 23 were at the crease when the match ended, having snuffed out New Zealand’s slim hopes of victory in the final session.
Those hopes had been briefly roused after the tea break when nightwatchman Steve Finn was trapped in front by left-arm spinner Bruce Martin for 56 and Joe Root was run out for a duck.
Root’s dismissal left England on 390-6, a lead of 97 with a minimum 31 overs remaining in the day.
Finn’s first Test half century and highest first-class score exemplified England’s doggedness in their second innings as he played the nightwatchman’s role to perfection.
Prior to his first innings knock of 20 at University Oval, his previous highest Test score was 19 against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2011.
The tall fast bowler faced 203 balls and batted for almost five hours as he held up one end while the more established batsmen chipped away at what was remaining of New Zealand’s imposing 293-run first innings lead after McCullum had declared their first innings at 460-9.
Jonathan Trott (52) and Kevin Pietersen (12) were the only two wickets to fall during the middle session as New Zealand’s bowlers toiled away on a barren pitch that offered them no assistance.
The tourists had resumed on 234-1, 59 behind, after Cook (116) had been dismissed just before stumps on Saturday.
Nick Compton was the only batsman out before lunch, trapped LBW by Neil Wagner for 117, but he was able to head back to the pavillion safe in the knowledge that his partnership with Cook on Saturday had resurrected England’s position in the match.
The pair put on a stubborn 231-run opening stand, taking a massive chunk out of New Zealand’s first innings lead.
“It’s a case of ‘right, we got away with that one guys, but we’re going to have to turn on for the next game,’” Compton told reporters
“We put ourselves in this position, we’re well aware of that. We weren’t good enough in the first innings and New Zealand were right on it. They batted brilliantly, they bowled well,” he said.
“So it was a bit of a kick up the proverbial, if you know what I mean. It was a case of really trying to get back into it,” Compton said. “We’re aware that if we play to our capabilities then we’ve got a good chance, no doubt.”
The series resumes in Wellington on Thursday, with the third Test taking place in Auckland starting on March 22.
BANGLADESH V SRI LANKA
AFP, GALLE, Sri Lanka
Mohammad Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim smashed impressive centuries in a record stand as Bangladesh dominated the third day of the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Galle yesterday.
On his comeback, Ashraful hit an unbeaten 189 not out, the highest by a Bangladesh player in Tests, and Rahim made a career-best 152 not out as the tourists posted 438-4 in their first innings at stumps in reply to Sri Lanka’s 570-4 declared.
Their 261-run unbroken stand was Bangladesh’s highest for any wicket in Tests, the previous best being 200 for the second wicket between Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique against India in Dhaka in 2010.
Bangladesh also surpassed their previous highest total of 413 against Sri Lanka in Tests.
The tourists, who avoided the follow-on in the final session, now trail by 132 runs with six wickets in hand.
The 28-year-old Ashraful, who played his last Test in December 2011, hit one six and 20 fours in his sixth Test hundred, and the fifth against Sri Lanka, while Rahim, 24, smashed one six and 18 fours in his second Test century.
It was a frustrating day for Sri Lanka, because none of their bowlers could keep up the pressure on Ashraful and wicketkeeper-batsman Rahim on a good batting pitch.
The hosts went wicketless after striking twice in the opening 11 overs.
Bangladesh added 303 to their overnight total of 135-2 for the loss of just two wickets.
Ashraful, 65 overnight, completed his century in the morning with an aggressive shot when he firmly drove unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis through the covers for a four.
Rahim also played some handsome shots during his big innings and reached his hundred in the last session, when he swept Mendis for a four.
Debutant Mominul Haque also impressed, scoring an 83-ball 55, with nine fours. He added 105 for the third wicket with Ashraful before being caught at first slip by skipper Angelo Mathews off paceman Nuwan Kulasekara.
The left-hander added 20 runs to his overnight score of 35.
Sri Lanka struck again when left-arm spinner Rangana Herath had Mohammad Mahmudullah stumped for no score to reduce Bangladesh to 177-4, before Ashraful and Rahim propped up the innings.
The partnership helped Bangladesh’s chances of drawing the match. Sri Lanka has won all 12 Tests against Bangladesh.