Kiwi hitmen give New Zealand the chance to tie Test series
New Zealand's aggressive last session batting under artificial light at Eden Park tonight kicked down the English barricades to tying the National Bank Test series with England and set up a superb final day to the series tomorrow.
England attempted to slow down the over rate, bowling 12 overs in the first half of the extended last session, but the tactic rebounded on them when the lights at the ground kicked in and lit up the scene as New Zealand plundered the bowling.
An amazing 417 runs were scored on the day and in the 41.2 overs of the last session New Zealand scored 216 runs.
They finished the day on 269/9, a lead of 311 runs.
It was another amazing day of cricket as New Zealand's batsmen enjoyed rare plunder as Chris Harris (43), Nathan Astle (65) and Craig McMillan (50 not out) feasted on a situation that gathered in momentum and allowed them open slather.
Astle's 65 off 51 balls was a mini-Jade Stadium as he hit two sixes and eight fours. Harris was dismissed for 43 halfway through a whirlwind period when 118 runs were added in 14 overs. When Harris was dismissed at 166/4, it was around that time that the light became marginal.
England captain Nasser Hussain was clearly angered that his fieldsmen were disadvantaged in the light conditions, although that didn't stop Mark Butcher taking a boundary catch to dismiss a rampant Astle nor wicket-keeper James Foster taking a catch to dismiss Daniel Vettori.
England's Graham Thorpe later commented that the decision to use the lights had favoured New Zealand and gave them an advantage because it had been tricky in the field.
"One side should not have an advantage over the other," he said.
It was not a good day for the English and the umpires, especially local umpire Doug Cowie and his decision to give Andrew Flintoff out, caught when his bat was nowhere near the ball.
But as New Zealand dismissed England for 160, to enjoy a lead of 42 runs, a lead which was purposefully extended by Mark Richardson and Adam Parore before the later onslaught. They put on 53 runs before Parore was out in the last over before tea for 36 and New Zealand coach Denis Aberhart couldn't compliment the pair of them enough afterwards.
They had set the later run-scoring up by getting on top of the new ball which has seen many wickets taken in this game so far.
"It was important that Richardson and Parore got us away to a good start and they did.
"We probably got more runs than we expected to get by stumps tonight and that was the result of good batting through the middle from Harris, Astle and McMillan, who built on that start," he said.
Stephen Fleming was out just after the resumption for one and then Richardson was caught for 25 when trying to up his scoring rate.
That saw Harris and Astle come together in what developed into the crucial period of the game. After slowly building up, the rumble of Astle getting his artillery primed soon became a roar when he started to get into Andy Caddick's bowling with successive cover driven boundaries.
Harris wasn't excluded from the hitting frenzy and played some lovely drives, straight and through the covers.
Hussain introduced Ashley Giles to try and keep New Zealand's scoring genie in the lamp but it was to no avail.
Butcher was hit for successive boundaries by Harris, and then Astle hammered Giles' replacement Flintoff onto the second deck of the West Stand, a big hit under any circumstances, and then to backward square leg, a much shorter distance, although the six was dropped over the boundary by Usman Afzaal.
It was entertaining cricket as New Zealand created the chance for a fascinating conclusion to the series tomorrow.
Aberhart said: "We need as much time as we can to bowl the English out, the wicket is still doing a bit, there is a bit more uneven bounce and our bowlers are starting to hit their straps.
"It is important that we do give ourselves enough time to bowl them out, we'll have a look in the morning and see what we want to do.
"We were the team that had the opportunity when given the light for the first time and we've got to win this match being 1-0 down in the series so we may be more pro-active in some ways in carrying on."
Aberhart said that if the tables were reversed tomorrow and England were looking for the runs for victory, New Zealand would play the game.
"It was a great advertisement for Test cricket. We have lost a lot of time in this game and if we weren't able to play under lights it would have finished at 150 tonight and we would have missed something special.
"So if it is the same situation tomorrow night and we need two wickets and they want a few runs, hopefully they'll carry on and we'll take the last two wickets.
"I think it's far better to be able to play in those conditions and carry on to give the public cricket because, really, that was a good day's cricket."