New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Auckland, 1st day March 22, 2013

Fulton, Williamson grind England


New Zealand 250 for 1 (Fulton 124*, Williamson 83*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Had Alastair Cook arrived at Auckland with a case of wine and box of chocolates for his New Zealand hosts he could hardly have been a more gracious guest. Cook, perhaps seduced by a hint of green and a theory that the drop-in pitch in use for this Test might aid his seamers, inserted New Zealand upon winning the toss and thereby surrendered first use of a fine surface.

Under bright skies and on a true pitch, barely a ball deviated in the air or off the pitch all day as New Zealand reached 250 for the loss of just one wicket by stumps. With the series level at 0-0 going into this final match, New Zealand have earned an excellent opportunity to win a Test series at home against England for just the second time. The first was in 1983-84.

Cook's insertion may well draw comparison with Nasser Hussain's infamous decision in Brisbane in 2002. To be fair to Cook, there is little reason to suppose this pitch will deteriorate. It is hard, easy paced and true. It offered precious little swing or seam movement and promises little better for spinners later in the game.

The lush outfield and lack of other pitches limits the opportunity for reverse swing, too. If it was ever going to help the bowlers, it was going to be in the first hour. But his decision has allowed New Zealand to claim the initiative and, in the decisive Test of a series, leaves England in a precarious position. Even a drawn series would have been considered a setback at the start of the tour.

Perhaps Cook's decision was not so much at fault as England's execution of the decision. Certainly they will reflect that they did not fully utilise the new ball. It is not that James Anderson or Stuart Broad bowled badly - far from it - just that they did not make the New Zealand openers play as often as they might in the first few overs. By the time they had found their line, the openers had settled and the ball offered nothing.

The main beneficiary of England's generosity was Peter Fulton. The 34-year-old New Zealand opener had previously only passed 50 twice in Test cricket and his previous highest score was 75, made almost exactly seven years ago. Here, however, at the age of at 34 years and 49 days, he benefited from the benign conditions and a small outfield to become the second oldest man to score his maiden Test century for New Zealand. The oldest is Zin Harris.

Whatever his fragility on the off side - and several times he was drawn into playing at deliveries he should have left and on 12 was fortunate to see an indeterminate prod off Anderson fly past third slip - Fulton is a beast off his legs. He scored 98 of his 124 first-day runs on the leg side and at one stage plundered Monty Panesar for 14 - a six and two fours - in three balls, all over midwicket.

Perhaps, on a larger playing surface, he might have been caught on 30 when he top-edged a pull off Broad and saw the ball clear the fine leg boundary, just 53 metres from the bat, but generally he blocked on off stump and waited for England's bowlers to stray either too full or on to his legs. He on drove sweetly - the stroke that took him to 50 was delightful - and showed a willingness to hit over the top, clubbing Panesar for two sixes over midwicket.

Kane Williamson was, in many ways, even more impressive. More secure in defending his off stump than his partner, he also unveiled some delightful strokes with a couple of straight drives off Anderson bearing the hallmark of true class. Quick to pick-up the length, he cut and pulled Panesar for boundaries and, at the age of just 22, resumes on day two just 17 short of a fourth Test century. He has already helped Fulton add 171 for the second wicket, with his preference for the off side complementing his partner's leg-side skill.

Initially it was Hamish Rutherford who impressed. He scored 37 of an opening partnership of 79, easing New Zealand's early nerves with a pleasing straight drive for four off Anderson and lofting Panesar for two straight sixes in the spinner's second over.

His wicket, in the penultimate over before lunch, owed more to a lapse of concentration than any incisive bowling. Slashing at a wide one without foot movement, he was well taken at first slip and left the pitch knowing he had squandered an ideal opportunity of a big score.

England were underwhelming in the field. While Broad and Anderson persevered in conditions offering them little, Finn, lacking rhythm from his new run-up, failed to generate the pace that might have been expected of him, while Monty Panesar, with no help from the conditions, was ineffectual. While the flat pitch should offer few fears to England's batsmen, it is tough to see how England can claim the 19 wickets they need to win this series.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 23, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    @Soso_killer on (March 22, 2013, 16:10 GMT) Have you ever considered - re England - that due to a seriously crap weather summer even by Eng standards - that the curators were unable to prepare pitches exactly as they wished and that they indeed did a good job to prepare pitches fit to play on.

    Re Australia - I can't comment on how they prepared their pitches but please remember that if these so called "Roads" would help the Oz batsmen would they not also help the SA batsmen too? Also while your pace attack is your strongest asset, so too is it Australia's so by deliberately preparing Roads would negate the home bowlers best chances. As if these were Roads , then you should be thankful because surely it would have helped you save the 2nd test and had you gone a test down who knows what would have happened in the series

  • Andrew on March 22, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    @Soso_killer on (March 22, 2013, 16:10 GMT) - what a joke! The reason why you create the same pitches is, because you have ZERO spinners! LOL! During the Warne years, your lot produced thick lawns for pitches to keep Warne at bay (didn't work). The pitches Oz produced for Sth Africa were fair strips. Oz's best chance to beat SA, was to produce Green Tops for the lottery affect. The same "roads" saw Oz take more wickets for less runs than SA, so are you saying that SA batsmen (Kallis, Smith, Amla & AB) are inferior to Oz batsmen? Or Oz bowlers were better than SA? Or maybe, just maybe Oz played better cricket over the 1st 2 tests before SA struck back? Cowards? Using those types of words without posting your name & address with it, suggests YOU are! == == == Spewing Williamson didn't get his ton, but Anderson did deserve a wicket.

  • Dummy4 on March 22, 2013, 21:39 GMT

    nz a re building as a test team compared to a dismal last few years, there run rate may be a bit slow but people will complain if nz was all out for 1 hundred. they are working so hard to gain respect to themselves and to there opposition. i say well done to nz. to the people who hate flat pitches and say they are lame draws, this series would be 1-1 if it wasnt for the rain, after all south africia bowled nz out cheaply last year on these same pitches. On alistar cook your team is ranked no. 2 in the world try using attacking fields to a team who is ranked last in the test rankings, i think your tactics is negative and leaves nothing for the imagination!

  • John on March 22, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    I do have to say some of the Sky commentators do get on my nerves at times. During/after today's play some of them were commenting on it being a bad decision to put NZ in etc and during the last test the reverse was said. But during the last test they were saying during the Eng inns "wait until both teams have bowled" re how good a batting wicket it seemed. But during this match it seems no one's saying "Wait Until NZ bowl"

    So it seems that it can't just be that Eng are bowling below par or NZ batting well - because NZ are on top it must be because

  • John on March 22, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Isn't it amazing how many fans disappeared when their team was losing their home test series and have suddenly reappeared on the England threads coinciding with their side coming into some form? My guess is that all bar 1 of the usuals will be in hiding again during the SA/India series. How short are the memories

  • John on March 22, 2013, 21:30 GMT

    @ facebook user (March 22, 12:30 GMT) Wouldn't necessarily say we have the best spin attack in the world but in UAE it was our batsmen who were pathetic. Re our bowlers - spinners Monty took 14 wkts at 21.57 and Swann took 13 at 25.07 while even our pacers Broad 13 at 20.46 and Jimmy 9 at 27.66 all did a job. Sure the Pak spinners had better figures but none of those figures were PATHETIC as you put it are they?

    @GRVJPR (March 22, 18:51) If both the tests had a full 5 days of play , you might - just might - have a point but 2 of the tests have had less than 4 days play. Also you were moaning earlier on saying that Eng only won in India because of the pitches which you were criticising. Now you are praising those pitches. So what is it to be - the pitches are bad because England won on them or good because they produce results?

  • Peter on March 22, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    The England bowling attack could do with Finn regaining his pace and rhythm. We know he can bowl just as well and as fast with the short new run-up, but he struggled yesterday, and at times bowled no more than military-medium. Despite a perfect batting track, England's attack again didn't look dangerous. Fulton and Williamson played really well though, and although the pitch is again depressingly flat, New Zealand have batted well in this series. I've got no problems with Cook putting NZ in; the track looks unlikely to deteriorate. Having said that, with the series at stake, England will be under a fair bit lot of pressure if NZ get 450 or more.

  • jared on March 22, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    Ill defend these pitches till im blue in the face because i am a true cricket fan who wants test matches to last 5 days. Sick of green tops producing 3 day tests 4 days if we are lucky. I hate it when all a bowler has to do is put it on a length and the wicket does the rest, i want to see a bowler and his captain work out a batters weakness, keep plugging away at that weakness untill they get their reward for their toil. England bowled with what looked like no plans, bowled a negitive line well outside off stump then england fans blame nz for scoring slowly. Truth is its day 1 and this pitch could still get a result late on day 5 just like the other two pitches if it didn't rain. Get over it england.

  • Craig on March 22, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    Bruce Martin will be the match winner when Eng have to chase 350 in the 4th innings, Sorry Vettori your time is up

  • Peter on March 22, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    England's issues aside. how about we give credit to the application of the Kiwi batsmen? Good work from them, they were asked questions of a quality attack & at the end of the first day stood tall & proud. An overall great result for both NZ & test cricket.