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March 17, 2013
New Zealand 254 and 162 for 2 (Williamson 55*, Fulton 45, Taylor 41*) trail England 465 by 49 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England's chances of forcing victory in the second Test were all but eliminated when Cyclone Sandra wiped out the bulk of the last two sessions at Basin Reserve. Sandra, now she has arrived, is not expected to depart quickly with persistent rain forecast for the final day. The likelihood is that England and New Zealand will head to Auckland with the series still locked at nil-all.
Even before the rain made its long-heralded arrival over lunch, the going was tough for England as New Zealand batted resiliently on a surface showing little sign of deterioration to whittle down a first-innings deficit of 211 to 58. Six overs late in the day to appease the diehards shaved off a few more.
Chief wielder of the whittling stick was Kane Williamson, a circumspect half-century secured shortly before lunch when he pulled Joe Root securely through square leg. He had 55 from 174 balls when play was abandoned. If Williamson was a boy scout, his whittling would be of such a high standard it would be enough to make him patrol leader, although not necessarily make him the chief attraction at the village show.
He played diligently and with sound technique, particularly against the quick bowlers, and if he was unsettled at times by Monty Panesar's left-arm spin, Panesar never managed to get on top of him for long. He looks mature beyond his 22 years and looks set to serve New Zealand with distinction for many years.
Williamson's third-wicket stand with Ross Taylor was worth 72 by lunch, with Taylor displaying flashes of attacking intent. It was clear for England that there would be no easy pickings against a side which has played with resolve throughout the series. At times Panesar seemed at odds with himself, or the field he had to bowl to, or the weather. Dr Panesar, as he jokes he wishes to be known these days since taking some business exams earlier in the tour, needed a spot of self-diagnosis.
England's only wicket was that of Peter Fulton, whose obdurate innings ended with a push away from his body against James Anderson and a straightforward slip catch for Alastair Cook. It was touch and go whether Anderson had overstepped, but after several replays the third umpire, Paul Reiffel, ruled in the bowler's favour. Anderson had stayed behind the line by little more than a bit of stray ankle strapping.
Anderson was variously troubled by an ankle battered by footholds that were not entirely to his taste and a back made stiff by the Wellington breeze. If he came back to Basin Reserve on a really windy day, he would get an insight about what it would feel like to be 90 years of age. Nobody would have predicted with certainty that he would get through the day unscathed but he reached lunch in reasonable order.
The aches and strains of a fast bowler's lot was enough to put him in one of his complex moods, revealed by a put-upon smile that forever seems likely to be his last. He was never more put upon than when Kevin Pietersen misfielded badly at mid-on to allow Taylor, who was on a pair, to get a single off the mark, the pressure released in an instant.
An unbroken morning session had seemed unlikely before play began. Rain was forecast, imminent rain, and the groundstaff were not overly enthusiastic about taking the covers off. But Cyclone Sandra was a playful adversary and, although rumoured to be in the vicinity, delivered nothing more than a sprinkle or two in the first few overs before taking her sport elsewhere until more extensive rain arrived at the interval. Wellington, with little more than a fortnight's water left after one of its driest summers on record, will be grateful for that.
New Zealand began 134 runs in arrears with eight wickets remaining. The pitch was still sound, the weather unsettled. England needed the ball to turn for Panesar - and not merely out of the rough. He came into the attack after seven overs and his first two deliveries did just that, bringing hope that Panesar could progress from a good containing job to potential matchwinner. He threatened sporadically all morning, but no wickets were forthcoming.
He looked a little sorry for himself, but it could have been worse. While he went unrewarded, his spin partner, Graeme Swann, recuperating from an elbow operation in the United States, tweeted that he was sick of jam and peanut butter. There is always someone worse off than you.
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