New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Auckland, 2nd day March 23, 2013

New Zealand can prey on England's nerves

New Zealand finished with less than they had looked on target for in Auckland, but if England are to win, they will still have to manufacture victory

Eking it out. Chipping away. Manoeuvring a position. Each of them could apply to the second day at Eden Park. Except for Tim Southee's brisk stay and Steven Finn's swift wrapping up of the tail nothing happened especially swiftly. Yet, the Test has moved on significantly, as if by stealth, with a day of one wicket followed by a day of eleven.

New Zealand could, and probably should, have made more than 443 but they gained priceless compensation in the final session when Trent Boult, finding more swing than any of the England bowlers, removed Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott. Was it his slightly slower pace through the air allowing the ball to move? Maybe it was purely the vagaries of the ball picked out of the box.

There was edginess to England's batting, especially as Nick Compton and Ian Bell blocked out the final nine overs. Remember, too, that this is a line-up now missing Kevin Pietersen, and including a cricket-starved Jonny Bairstow and a slightly out-of-touch Joe Root. What a chance this is for New Zealand. Before the game Brendon McCullum called it "a chance to create history" and, so far, that burden does not appear to have rested too heavily on his team.

England need to force the pace if they are to manufacture a victory and that will be difficult with two key batsmen already gone. It will only take one bad innings for this series to be completely gone for them. The bowlers would not thank them for that. In the field, England could not have done much more on the second day.

To take nine wickets for 193 on the second day was a commendable effort, as was New Zealand's second-day return of 8 for 198 at the Basin Reserve. The conditions had not changed, but New Zealand's batsmen started to hit the ball in the air and the catching (if not always the ground-fielding) was excellent. Matt Prior led the way with two outstanding, contrasting takes to remove Peter Fulton and McCullum - a full-length dive standing back and a reflex grab standing up.

New Zealand were a little wasteful, as England had been in Wellington on the second day. Ross Taylor chipped a soft catch back to Monty Panesar, McCullum gave Trott his fourth Test wicket and Dean Brownlie slashed to backward point. New Zealand were never in trouble - their opening-day score of 250 for 1 had provided a cushion - but the departures of Taylor and McCullum were a blow to their hopes of pushing the scoring rate along, although Southee's cultured innings filled some of the gap.

The question, though, is can their attack conjure 20 wickets? They already have two; it took England 94 overs to get that many. Boult and Tim Southee, while not always accurate, found more consistent movement than their opposition counterparts. Another interesting comparison will be Bruce Martin, who has outbowled Panesar in this series in terms of a wicket-taking threat. He is more confident at varying his pace and strikes you as the type of bowler who will happily be lofted for a few sixes if it eventually brings reward. Already, on the second evening, he made a couple grip. He bowled the final over of the day with five men around the bat - McCullum, the steely-eyed captain, camped in front of the batsman's eyes at silly point.

England can't win the match on the third day, but they could lose it. However, there are images of England's visit here in 1988 in how this series is panning out. In Christchurch, England dominated the first Test but could not make up for five hours lost to rain. In 2013, read New Zealand in Dunedin. The second Test at Eden Park was a tame draw and the decider, at the Basin Reserve, was ruined by the weather. Much like now there was frustration for the England bowlers with Graham Dilley fined £250 (approx US$380) for an outburst in Christchurch, which was picked up by the stump microphones, following some contentious umpiring decisions. The DRS helps keep those to a minimum these days.

None of the 2013 attack quite blew a fuse, although Finn was no doubt pretty close first ball after tea when Bairstow made a mess of a diving save a deep square-leg and conceded a boundary. Kicking the turf and standing with hands on hips was a familiar sight. Finn, however, massaged his figures with three wickets in six balls after tea even if too many deliveries still angle down the leg side - although two of those brought him wickets this time. It would be churlish to begrudge a bowler success after 37 overs of toil.

Finn, and the rest of the England bowlers, would like to think they can have a couple of days with their feet up before one final attempt to break New Zealand's resistance. At the moment, however, that is a long way from being possible.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Angus on March 23, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    This is a much more balanced article than the day's report. England did very well to restrict us to a total 50-100 runs below what would have been the target. But in a strange way, because of the slow run rate, this advancement has possibly increased NZ's chance of victory.

    I'm hoping Tim and Trent swing NZ to victory this morning, but the bowling last evening needs to improve for that to happen.

  • Dummy4 on March 23, 2013, 16:26 GMT

    For me Ian Bell holds the key for England now, how fast can they get near or towards NZ's total will determine the outcome of this match. I can't see England losing as if they see themselves in a position where as they can't win the match they have the batsmen to close up shop in the second innings and survive for a draw.

  • Nicholas on March 23, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    That cameo by Southee may very well have scuppered England's chances. I'm not expecting any contribution with the bat from England's 8-11, meaning a monumental effort is required from Bell, Prior, and 3 rookies. NZ have at no stage throughout the series looked like crumbling - despite awful predictions by certain ex-England players... Forget the draw - England are staring down the barrel of a potential upsetting defeat here. Hope the weather holds off at least...

  • dave on March 23, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    I expect Boult, Martin and hopefully Williamson to have a say tomorrow. The middle order for England looks vulnerable, apart from Prior, so the first hour will be crucial. At least English commentators and fans are a little less condescending recently. NZ swing bowlers should do well in English conditions later in the year so I don't expect England to have it all their way at home either.

  • John on March 23, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    England can still win this game, but they're going to need some help from NZ to do it. Given that they took 9 for 193 today, there's still the possibility that they could skittle NZ cheaply in the second innings. They've still got to avoid the same happening to them first though, which is by no means assured. If they can bat all day tomorrow then they'll be in a position where it could happen. If NZ have a sniff and are batting on day 4 then they could get over-eager and lose wickets as a result. This is an England fan staying positive but it's clear that money would be smarter spent on NZ or a draw than England at this stage.

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