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March 22, 2013
Steven Finn draws positives from a bad day at the office
Nasser Hussain has never quite lived down putting the Australians in to bat at the Gabba in 2002 and seeing them end the first day on 364 for 2. Alastair Cook may sleep slightly uncomfortably in Auckland after sticking New Zealand in and seeing them finish on 250 for 1.
However, bowling first is becoming the norm in New Zealand; this is the seventh time in a row the team winning the toss has put the opposition in. Brendon McCullum has insisted whatever life is on offer will be there early and Cook followed that belief at Eden Park, but there was no more movement or playing-and-missing than any average Test-match opening day.
It is often said not to judge a toss decision after the first session, so when New Zealand lunched on 79 for 1 the next two sessions were awaited. Five down would have been passable. One down is close to putting the series out of reach although England, as they have to, retained belief that the situation could quickly change. They can look to the previous Test where New Zealand took 8 for 198 on the second day after just two wickets on the first.
"I don't think it's a disastrous day of Test cricket for us," Steven Finn said. "Yes, obviously we'd have liked to take more than one wicket. But they've only got 250 runs on the board, and a crazy session - like we've had before - can turn the game on its head."
Finn was pointing out the run-rate was kept under three-an-over, but if that is now classed as a success by England it shows how their expectations in this series have changed. The bowling, to be fair, was not awful and a few of the edges through the slips to the short third-man boundaries could have gone to hand. But it never felt as though England were on the verge of creating sizable inroads into New Zealand's top order.
Barring the first innings in Wellington it has not felt that way at any point in the series, and even that innings took a lot of hard work. Throughout the matches, batsmen willing to get their heads down and cut out risks - as Peter Fulton and Kane Williamson did superbly - have been difficult to shift.
England will have come into this series wanting to use the height advantage of their quicks to test the techniques of the New Zealand batsmen who were exposed against South Africa's pace. However, England's bowlers have not been consistently as threatening as South Africa's on recent form and the pitches have negated their plans.
The lush outfield at Eden Park, which is no mean feat given that rugby was played on it last weekend and that the country is in drought, also hindered England's attempts to get the ball to reverse - a tactic they have used with great success in the subcontinent and Australia when traditional methods have been unavailable. The only spell of reverse in the series for England came from James Anderson on the third day in Wellington.
Finn, though, despite being a modern sportsman and 'picking out the positives' from a tough day, did make a valid point about not allowing the scoreboard to race away. That could easily have happened on this ground and looked as though it may occur when Fulton latched onto Monty Panesar during the afternoon session.
"At no stage today did we get despondent. To keep them at three-an-over and not too far out of our sights is good," Finn said. "It's important we try to wrestle the momentum from New Zealand - because after a day like that, they do have it."
One more day like this for the home side and it will be very difficult for England to win the series.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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