Watling chases down uncertain England
New Zealand XI 349 (Rutherford 90, Anderson 67, Swann 2-53) and 334 for 7 (Watling 89*, Root 2-42) beat England XI 426 (Bell 158, Cook 60, Neesham 4-72) and 256 (Prior 68, Gillespie 4-87) by 3 wickets
England's bowlers will know plenty about BJ Watling going into the first Test, after the wicketkeeper guided New Zealand XI to an excellent three-wicket victory with eight balls to spare in Queenstown, to leave the visitors in far from perfect form heading into the series.
It was England's first defeat in a first-class warm-up match on tour since they lost by eight wickets against an India Board President's XI in Vadodara in February 2006. The attack, except for Graeme Swann, struggled for consistency on a surface that, while offering a hint of turn, remained true for batting throughout.
At tea, England were favourites with New Zealand XI 167 for 5. Watling and Corey Anderson, who together bludgeoned a 105-run stand in the first innings, produced a repeat performance in the second innings by adding 89 runs in 19 overs. Graham Onions again came in for punishment, as a two-over spell went for 23, on another dispiriting day for him. He claimed forgettable match figures of 1 for 213.
Joe Root was given an extended bowling spell during the evening session, partly because Swann was off the field for a few overs, and also probably with a view to have him filling in for a few overs during the Tests. Root struck twice to keep England in the hunt. Anderson advanced down the pitch to Root and ended up yorking himself. After a 46-run stand for the seventh wicket, Jimmy Neesham picked out Stuart Broad at deep square-leg.
However, Watling, who was dropped in the gully on 47 by Swann, shortly after he came back on the field, provided a calm head as the home side ended up winning with time to spare. Neil Wagner, after being added to New Zealand's squad for the first Test earlier in the day, did not need to be shielded from the strike and played some handsome strokes, including a top-edged hook for six off Broad, and a boundary that leveled the scores, to ease the pressure on Watling in their match-sealing stand of 52
England declared overnight, leaving the New Zealand XI a full day to chase the target. As in the first innings they made a solid start, seeing off the new ball through an opening stand of 56. Hamish Rutherford showed his intent by upper-cutting Broad over point for six, before departing playing a similar shot off Chris Woakes, which was taken by Nick Compton at point. Broad returned for a second spell and pitched the ball a touch fuller, which brought reward when Carl Cachopa was caught on the crease and lost his off stump.
For the next 23 overs either side of lunch, Tom Latham and Neil Broom resisted solidly and kept the score ticking over. Onions was given another extended chance to bowl himself into form, but never suggested he would find his groove.
Swann broke the partnership when he removed Latham while playing the sweep, and there was a touch through to Matt Prior who held on while in the process of appeal for lbw. Broad, who again maintained his pace throughout each spell, removed Broom offering no shot and when Dean Brownlie fenced to second slip the game looked to be England's. Instead, they will travel to Dunedin on Sunday with another reminder of the fighting qualities of New Zealand cricketers.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo