New Zealand batsmen disappoint
Essex 258 and 45 for 1 (Cook 21*) require a further 248 runs to beat New Zealanders 355 and 195 (Mills 53*, Chambers 3-37)
Eleven days before the first Test against England, New Zealand's middle-order struggled against Essex on the third day at Chelmsford, though an unbeaten 53 from Kyle Mills lifted the tourists' to 195 to set the home side a challenging 293 with a day to spare.
New Zealand lost their first four wickets before lunch, and it was only Mills' intervention at No. 9 - together with a seventh-wicket stand of 58 with Aaron Redmond - that has given their bowlers somewhat of a cushion. Jamie How and James Marshall, elevated to No. 2 following Redmond's hand injury yesterday, both fell within half-an-hour to Tony Palladino and Alex Tudor respectively, and all eyes were then on Brendon McCullum. He didn't disappoint, smashing 35 from 29 balls with seven muscular fours, but fell to Ravi Bopara's outswingers to put Essex well on top at 63 for 4.
Redmond should have opened the batting but injured his hand during warm-ups yesterday, so out he strode at the fall of McCullum's wicket. However, the umpires sent him back as not enough time had elapsed since the injury, prompting Jacob Oram into a desperate scramble to find some pads. After an excellent spell with the new ball Palladino pulled off a fine catch at mid-on to dismiss Oram, diving to his right off Bopara.
New Zealand were slipping fast at 92 for 6, but Redmond and Mills finally showed some application in a solid stand. Redmond spent 106 balls for his 30, and Mills - who cracked five fours and two sixes - was left not-out on 53, also from 106 balls. Maurice Chambers was again impressive, returning 3 for 37 from 12.4 overs.
Set 293 to win, Essex's openers, Alastair Cook and Jason Gallian, set off at a canter and cracked 39 from nine overs, though Cook should have been held by Ross Taylor at slip when on nought. Shortly before the close Iain O'Brien made up for the clattering he received earlier to remove Gallian, but an intriguing final day is in prospect with Essex requiring a further 248.