Finn shines as England batsmen draw game
England 167 (Wagner 4-42, Martin 4-43) and 421 for 6 (Compton 117, Cook 116, Finn 56, Trott 52, Wagner 3-141) drew with New Zealand 460 for 9 dec (Rutherford 171, McCullum 74, Fulton 55, Anderson 4-137)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Steven Finn, excelling in a new role as nightwatchman, struck a maiden first-class fifty to make a huge contribution towards England saving the first Test in Dunedin and saving face in the bargain. As Finn walked back to the dressing room with 56 to his name, and perhaps his first experience of pad burn after not far short of five hours at the crease, he was in danger of being rewarded with a full-time appointment to go alongside the gratitude of his team mates.
Finn's marathon resistance stretched until the second over after tea, at which point he succumbed to an ambitious slog-sweep at the left-arm spinner Bruce Martin. Spared Finn's sudden appreciation of the art of batsmanship, New Zealand might well have triumphed. As their bowlers strove gamely for victory on a docile surface, they will also have rued the rain and bad light which prevented play on the opening day.
England lost Nick Compton on a slow final morning, with Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen following in the afternoon. Ian Bell's senseless run-out of Joe Root, thrown out second ball for nought by a direct hit from cover, kept New Zealand's interest flickering enough in the final session to take a third new ball, but by then England's lead was 117 with four wickets and 25 overs remaining. Bell wisely saw the job through until, with the advantage stretched to 128, the match was called off at the final drinks break.
Pietersen's out-of-sorts innings immediately invited conjecture that he might be protecting an injury and, to add to the intrigue, he watched the last rites in front of the dressing room with a large black X on his right knee. To offer such target practice was especially dangerous in New Zealand, who can invent a sport for most things and who even now are probably drawing up the rules for world championship knee archery.
Pietersen, Trott and Compton fell to the unflagging left-arm swing of Neil Wagner, who will need every hour of his three days off before the second Test begins in Wellington, but New Zealand never quite got on a roll.
Finn could take much credit for that. The wagon wheel, which might one day be framed in his downstairs toilet, showed five boundaries scooting off in the general direction of third man, but he generally made good use of his long reach on a pitch which slumbered to the last. James Anderson, his predecessor, has taken a battering in some of the most threatening situations Test cricket can offer, but Finn got a cushier job and relaxed into it with aplomb. Wagner did test him against the short ball eventually, but only at around 130kph and only when his eye was in.
He reached his 50 from 142 balls, angling Wagner through gully, but then decided to take stock, scratched a new guard and did not score for the next hour and a quarter. His next single brought ironic applause from the Barmy Army and a blast from Billy Cooper's trumpet. It was just as well that he did dig in because Trott fell for 52 in the same over, Wagner taking a good leaping catch in his follow-through from a leading edge, and Pietersen soon followed to an inside edge from a nondescript shot.
Perhaps Pietersen was just having one of those days. Just as he is intoxicated by the big occasion, he can run on empty if a game feels flat. If he guested in a club knockabout, there is every chance that somebody would get him out for nought, just as there would be every chance that Finn would get a hundred.
Finn escaped a couple of tough chances; in the first over of the day edging very low towards Dean Brownlie at third slip and later, on 37, sending an edge between the slips off Kane Williamson. The middle of the bat often proved elusive, especially when compared to the timing shown by Trott, but his stay was testament to the work England's bowlers put in their batting.
England began the day still 59 runs behind and a couple of early wickets, with the second new ball still new, would have opened the door for New Zealand. However, it took them more than an hour to make the breakthrough which came when Wagner swung one back into Compton's pads who, for a moment, considered the review before deciding, wisely as replays showed, that it would have been a waste.
Compton's seven-hour innings - 117 from 310 balls - was a study in concentration and determination. He was given a warm ovation as he walked off, his father Richard leading the applause from the crowd, and was safe in knowledge that his Test berth is now secure.
Trott's half-century was effortless, a punchy straight drive off Martin emphasising that there would be no last-day encouragement for the spinner, who instead continued to toil on a dead surface.
England made only 53 from 28 overs between lunch and tea and Finn was responsible for 14 of them. But the overs were ticking down and for England, that was all that mattered.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo