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March 14, 2008
England grasped control of the second Test in Wellington, with James Anderson picking up his fourth five-wicket haul to help dismiss New Zealand for 198 shortly before stumps on the second day. With a lead of 144, and on what remains an excellent pitch, England's hopes of levelling the three-match series grow by the day.
Before this Test, Michael Vaughan spoke of his excitement at the change in personnel following the semi-ruthless double-axing of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison. And although Tim Ambrose's credentials have increased exponentially following his attractive maiden hundred and silky-smooth keeping, it was Anderson and Stuart Broad - the new, young bowling replacements - who Vaughan most needed to pass the litmus test. Both did just that.
After Ambrose's superb maiden hundred - becoming the first England wicketkeeper in 11 years to reach a ton on foreign soil since Alec Stewart in 1997 - Anderson was immediately to the fore, ripping out New Zealand's top three in perfect bowling conditions. Much as England's lower order had struggled, New Zealand's openers couldn't cope with Anderson's natural away swing. The ball to remove Matthew Bell was as unplayable as Jacob Oram's crackerjack to Vaughan yesterday, knocking over his off stump and giving the bowler the confidence to pitch it up. Jamie How prodded meekly at another outswinger, as did a quizzical Mathew Sinclair, and after 16 overs New Zealand had slipped to a precipitous 31 for 3.
They weren't finished, however. Stephen Fleming - playing for the last time on his home ground - and in particular Ross Taylor took the attack to England in a fourth-wicket stand of 71, laden with counterattacking strokes in front of square. There was a determined (perhaps sentimental) stickiness to Fleming which contrasted starkly with Taylor's natural inclination to force the scoring rate, and the pair made hay while England's concentration noticeably slipped. Monty Panesar's fielding was at its most clumsy and costly, letting through two fours and missing a run-out opportunity - though he was on the receiving end of a dreadfully panicky throw from Kevin Pietersen at cover.
Fleming threw away his wicket with a careless slap to point and, after Taylor brought up an attractive 74-ball fifty, he became Anderson's fifth victim when he pushed forward at another awayswinger. It was Anderson's fourth five-wicket haul, and you could hear the rumbles of discontent grow ever noisier at Auckland's decision to employ him last week.
At 113 for 6 New Zealand were in danger of folding like a pack of cards, but in came their most in-form and dangerous pair, Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori, who smacked 52 in little more than five overs. McCullum looked in bristling form, charging Anderson and shuffling to the off side. A wonderful back-foot drive past Broad looked to have dented his confidence, but impressively he had the gumption to pitch it up two balls later, handing Andrew Strauss his second safe slip catch.
Vettori at least managed to cut down England's lead with another hugely valuable and immensely infuriating fifty - brought up off his 42nd ball with the most audacious of uppercuts for six over third man. However, Paul Collingwood mopped up the tail with career-best figures of 3 for 23 as New Zealand were dismissed for 198 with about half-an-hour of the day's play remaining.
Alastair Cook and Vaughan survived the last five overs and, leading by 148, England are in the box seat and ready to bat New Zealand totally out of the game.
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