New Zealand not prepared to concede series yet
New Zealand created the slightest chance for themselves in 6.4 overs of fireworks in the third and final National Bank Series Test match with England at Eden Park today.
As rain and bad light threatened to cast the Test into oblivion as a lost cause, Daryl Tuffey and Chris Drum threw new light on the game, and that sliver of light has given hope where it didn't look possible in New Zealand's bid to draw the Test series 1-1.
The odds are heavily with England taking a 1-0 series win, but New Zealand has 202 runs on the board, and England are 12/3 facing batting on a pitch that home captain Stephen Fleming says is not going to get any better.
"The wicket is very difficult to bat on and it is going to get more difficult. We've seen the variable bounce already. It's going to be tough as the next two days go on," he said.
The rain did look as if it was going to ruin the third day as well as the second. Despite long periods of blue skies and drying winds, heavy showers continued to disrupt the ground preparation, especially the areas in front of both of the main stands on then northern and southern sides of the ground.
Just as play was due to start, a heavy shower had ground stuff scurrying to get the covers back on.
There was a spell of 13.1 overs just after the lunch break before another shower forced the teams from the field for just on two hours. Then when play did resume New Zealand hit out in a bid to get quick runs.
Adam Parore played some attacking shots, including one tremendous pull shot for four from Matthew Hoggard and a lofted cover drive for six off Andrew Flintoff.
But along the way he lost Chris Harris, who was unable to do better than 71, the same as his previous highest score in Tests against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in 1997/98. He was out leg before wicket to Flintoff, a fate he had been dicing with during today's play and which umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan decided could no longer continue.
Daniel Vettori and Andre Adams each tried to force the pace but couldn't make double figures, although Adams did make first slip Nasser Hussain's life a bit of a nightmare.
Before he had scored Adams edged a ball from Flintoff at regulation catching height to Hussain and he dropped it. It went on for four runs, although Hussain's crime was alleviated when it was realised it was a no-ball.
However, off the next ball, Adams edged again and the ball flew high and the leaping Hussain got his hands to the ball but was unable to have it stick.
A single was taken and from the next ball, Parore swung the ball towards the backward square leg boundary but substitute fieldsman Usman Afzaal, who was peppered with catches in the same vicinity by coach Duncan Fletcher during practice on Friday, took the catch and sent Parore on his way for 45.
Fleming said that he didn't declare after Adams' dismissal because there was always the chance the last pair would snick more runs that could be valuable in the final outcome.
They didn't last long enough to achieve that goal with Tuffey out hooking Hoggard to Mark Butcher at fine leg.
Flintoff finished with three for 49 and Hoggard three for 66, a useful day for both of them as their bowling careers develop.
No-one have expected the start that Tuffey offered up in his first over however.
He found conditions to his liking and off the second ball had Marcus Trescothick leg before wicket for a duck and three balls later had Butcher caught at short leg by a grass top catch taken by Mark Richardson, also for a duck. England were two down for no score, the same situation as in the first over of the series at Christchurch.
Richardson ran the length of the pitch in celebration while appealing at the same time and when Venkataraghavan finally called for the third umpire's assistance, Richardson was standing beside him.
Fleming said afterwards that Richardson had been immediately concerned about how his action might have looked on television and discussed the matter with the umpires straight away. Nothing more had been heard of it, he said.
More mayhem followed as captain Hussain copped a blow on his hand as he fended a ball high to the vacant square leg area. But soon after he was out when Drum, who it was earlier revealed is playing his last Test match, had Hussain touch the ball to Fleming at first slip where he completed the 99th catch of his career on his 29th birthday.
Fleming, who said afterwards that he had been taunted as the worst captain in the world throughout the series by the Barmy Army, immediately gestured in the direction of the offenders as England slumped to 12/3.
Soon after the light started to deteroriate rapidly and when offered the light the batsmen took their chance and play ended after only 28 overs had been completed on the day.
Tuffey had two wickets for four runs in his first Test match since New Zealand's second Test against Australia at Hobart in November while Drum had one for six.
Fleming laid down the challenge to his bowlers by saying it was the balls between the wicket-taking balls in the remainder of the game that was going to determine where the game was going to be won.