Cairns and Styris keep New Zealand afloat
England 225 for 5 (Trescothick 63, Vaughan 61) trail New Zealand 384 (Fleming 117, Styris 108, Richardson 73) by 159 runs
Chris Cairns produced a heroic bowling performance on his final Test appearance, to give New Zealand a slight edge at the close of the second day's play at Trent Bridge. Cairns, who removed Andrew Strauss with his third delivery, and later returned to end bristling innings from Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff, finished with 3 for 61 from 15 overs, after New Zealand's injury jinx had deprived Stephen Fleming of two strike bowlers in Kyle Mills and Chris Martin.
By the close Graham Thorpe was unbeaten on 30, with the nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard alongside him on 0, and England still trailed New Zealand's below-par 384 by 159 runs - a total that owed much to Scott Styris's classy 108, his fourth Test century. It all added up to a situation very similar to the one that England had faced (and surmounted) in the second Test at Headingley, but given the paucity of the Kiwis' bowling options, it was dicier that they might have bargained for.
England were possibly guilty of a touch of complacency, after the ease with which they had dispatched New Zealand's last six wickets in the morning session-and-a-bit. But all such thoughts were dispelled when they were reduced to 18 for 2 in the seventh over, and then 140 for 4 in 30th, after Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick had fallen in quick succession. Thorpe and Flintoff revived the innings by adding 81 for the fifth wicket, but Flintoff's late dismissal put the match back in the balance.
After two 150-run partnership in four innings, Trescothick and Strauss had become accustomed to setting out their stall for the long haul. But Strauss fell for a duck, nicking a thin edge through to Brendon McCullum off Chris Cairns, and when Mark Butcher continued his poor run of form by swishing James Franklin wildly to second slip, England were in a spot of bother.
But you would not have known it while Trescothick and Vaughan were together. Vaughan, especially, has not looked in such good touch since his century against South Africa at Edgbaston last summer. His first shot of note was a screeching straight-drive, and he followed up by clipping Mills's first ball in Test cricket for four. He did have a couple of moments of anxiety, however, when he was beaten twice in four balls by Styris, but he responded with an effortless swivel-pulled six off Franklin.
At that stage Vaughan was motoring towards his 12th Test century, only for Cairns to produce one of his magical slower deliveries - an apparent half-tracker that kept deceitfully low and pinned him plumb lbw for 61. Trescothick responded with a thump through midwicket, but three overs later he too was gone - caught by Scott Styris at a floating fifth slip as he pushed firmly at Franklin.
Flintoff and Thorpe set about rebuilding the innings, cautiously at first, but then with greater aplomb. Flintoff smeared a Cairns slower ball over long-on en route to his third half-century of the series, while Thorpe creamed a brace of drives to get his innings underway. But Cairns had the last say - after rain had forced a five-minute interruption, Flintoff reached his fifty with a steer through third man, but was trapped lbw for 54 with three overs remaining.
Styris had earlier kept New Zealand's first innings afloat with a wonderfully crafted century. Until today, it had been a disappointing tour for Styris - he had managed just 44 runs in his previous four Test innings, but made amends precisely when New Zealand most needed him. He brought up his hundred with a cool clip for four through midwicket, but celebrated with a grimace rather than a grin - he knew full well his team had squandered an opportunity to put the game beyond reach.
Styris received scant support from his middle-order colleagues who, after weathering another mini-storm from Steve Harmison, allowed themselves to get carried away against the medium-pace of Martin Saggers. At Headingley, Saggers had struck with his first delivery of the match: here, he needed a solitary sighter before prising Jacob Oram from the crease. In truth, it was a wretched delivery - short, slow and on leg stump, but Oram's eyes lit up and he top-edged a swipe to Strauss, and was already trudging back to the pavilion before the catch was completed.
In his place came Cairns, who was given a rapturous reception by the Trent Bridge faithful, and a pretty friendly one from Saggers as well, who after four more unthreatening balls, was withdrawn from the attack to make way for Harmison. But the extra pace was just to Cairns's liking, and he creamed two boundaries in Harmison's first over - the first, on the up and outside off stump, whistled through the covers in an instant.
So back came Saggers at the other end of the ground, and for the second time in the morning, he made an instant impression. Cairns had mowed his second ball over the covers for four, but his third was not quite there for the shot, and Thorpe had a nervy wait under a steepling drive, before clinging onto a vital catch (331 for 6).
Styris eventually skewed a leading edge off Ashley Giles to the substitute fielder, Nottinghamshire's Bilal Shafayat, in the covers, and the innings crumbled in just three overs after lunch. Matthew Hoggard took three attempts to cling onto a Brendon McCullum's uppercut at third man, before finding Mills's outside edge to bring up his 100th wicket in Tests. There was some doubt about whether the catch had carried to Geraint Jones, but four balls later Hoggard wrapped up the innings, courtesy of another juggling catch, this time by Vaughan at backward square leg.
By tea, Martin had already limped out of the attack with a tight hamstring, and in the evening Mills joined him on the treatment table with a side strain. It was the last thing that New Zealand needed, but with Cairns desperate to impress on his final appearance, it has not cost them dear so far.