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It was like a home from home for Iain O'Brien at Old Trafford. Instead of windy Wellington it was gale-force Manchester he had to contend with as he ran in from the Stretford End
May 25, 2008
He also remained bullish about New Zealand's chances of taking a series lead at Old Trafford despite their batting collapse on the third afternoon. They lost 7 for 29, to leave England needing 294 for victory, after seemingly moving themselves into an impregnable position during the morning by earning a massive advantage of 179.
However, O'Brien insists that the force remains with New Zealand after 16 wickets fell in 94 overs on Sunday. He also has history in his favour with the highest run chase on this ground being England's 231 for 3 to beat West Indies in 2004. "We need to wrap nine up tomorrow, I certainly think we are in front," he said. "We are pretty confident. We bowled very well this morning. It was a bit loose this afternoon and evening, but we'll get back to what we did in the morning session and come back out on top."
Vettori will grab New Zealand's headlines for his latest display of outstanding left-arm spin. However, O'Brien played a crucial role running into a howling gale, something he is used to having played much of his cricket in Wellington. He removed both England's openers on the second evening before adding Ian Bell on the third day. "It's as good as I've ever bowled," he said, and he has no issues about being given the tough role.
"That's my job, that's what I've learnt to do bowling at Wellington for seven or eight years," he said. "It's one of the windier grounds you will come across and this has been similar. It might have blown a litter harder today than it does at the Basin. It's what I've cut my teeth on, and I certainly enjoy it because no one else wants to do it."
O'Brien was also involved in one of the more curious incidents of the day's play. Barely anyone appealed apart from the bowler when Kevin Pietersen got an inside edge into his leg that ballooned up for a catch. "I was pretty certain and Jeets [Jeetan Patel] was at cover and he thought it was pretty good as well," he said. "No one else went up and I thought maybe I'm hearing things. I got the word from the dressing room at the end of the over that he got a chunk on it, but if no one else is going to go up it's pretty hard for the umpire to raise his finger."
He may be able to smile about that now, but there's no doubt New Zealand will be roaring appeals for everything on the fourth day. England need 218 to steal the match from under their noses, but O'Brien doesn't think that will happen.
"It would have been nice to have more. Our initial target was anything over 300 so we are pretty happy being around that in front going into their second innings. It's going to be a heck of chase, if they get it well done. I personally think we will come out all right."