March 23, 2002

Simple recipe for New Zealand tomorrow to keep hopes alive

New Zealand's requirements from day four of the second National Bank Test could not be clearer - they must score at a reasonable clip, keep wickets intact, and look to get a much bigger score than the 280 England achieved at the Basin Reserve today.

Easier said than done.

But they made it through to 70/1 at stumps, albeit at a slow pace, clearly designed to keep wickets intact.

"We're happy with the position. We fought back very well and have to push on tomorrow," New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said tonight.

It would be important for New Zealand to score quickly tomorrow. It had been a day of mixed fortunes.

England's 280 was probably 30 more than New Zealand wanted but when England were 220/4, to bowl them out for 280 was a reasonable effort.

New Zealand was still guilty of not closing in quickly enough on opportunities when wickets fell and Fleming said the bowlers still needed to tighten up between wickets.

Once the tragedy of their team-mate Ben Hollioake's death was received, just after play started for the day, it was always going to be a struggle for England.

It was understandable that in the moments when determination to concentrate that little bit harder to get through a tough period is required, young men cannot help but have their minds wonder as they reflect on the circumstances of their own mortality.

There is a natural reaction to want to be able to take time and reflect on their own association with Hollioake and the times they shared.

But there was a job to be done.

New Zealanders have grown up on the story that surrounded the tragic Christmas Eve train crash of 1953 at Tangiwai in the middle of the North Island which claimed the life of the fiancee of New Zealand Test cricketer Bob Blair who was in the midst of a Test match across the world at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

The response of New Zealand's batsmen to a Boxing Day pace bombardment, and Blair's courage in joining his team-mates when no-one expected him to play ahead of his own sorrow, was the stuff of legend.

It wasn't repeated at the Basin Reserve today, but there was a genuine understanding of what the England players were going through.

New Zealand's players were having to deal with their own demons, a no-balling curse that denied the side two wickets that could have made all the difference to this match delivering a result under its rain-reduced circumstances.

Left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori had Nasser Hussain caught at mid-on by Ian Butler for 46 only to see Darrell Hair standing with his arm out-stretched for a no-ball. Hussain added another 20 runs before he was given out, albeit controversially caught off his forearm.

Then Ashley Giles was caught by Adam Parore for a duck from Butler when he found he bowled one of 10 no-balls he bowled during the innings.

Fortunately, he scored only 10 before Butler finally got him, square cutting to Craig McMillan at point.

Fleming said as a batsman it was hard to accept the problems had with staying behind a line on the ground that didn't move. It was a discipline for bowlers and it was a bad habit, certainly a bad habit that could yet prove costly in the final outcome of the game.

Butler, however, had shown he was learning a lot about himself and Test bowling when advancing his career-best figures to four for 60 today. Vettori had two for 62, Chris Martin two for 58 and Chris Drum two for 85.

Butler had generated good pace from the wicket and Fleming said he was excited by him and saw him as a real talent for the future.

New Zealand swung the game back in their favour with a four-wicket middle-order haul for 17 runs generated by Butler and Vettori.

Some late hitting by James Foster 25 not out, Giles and Andy Caddick (10) had provided bonus runs.

New Zealand's response saw Matt Horne cleaned up by a ball from Caddick for eight and then an unbroken stand of 54 between Mark Richardson and Lou Vincent. Vincent was considerably lucky to be still there having benefited from some umpiring decisions that could just as easily have gone England's way.