England made to toil in warm-up
NZ Select XI 177 for 4 (How 65, Sinclair 16*, Elliott 13*) lead England XI 131 (Pietersen 50, O'Brien 4-34) by 46 runs
It was a marked reversal of fortune after the dominance England enjoyed in the two-day practice match on the same ground earlier in the week, and there was scarcely a moment in the day when they were not playing catch-up. Michael Vaughan was caught behind for a second-ball duck, Andrew Strauss took his tour tally to nine runs from two innings, and only Kevin Pietersen, with a 69-ball half-century, provided any resistance to a penetrative and eager New Zealand attack. But when he fell in the penultimate over before lunch, England's last hope of a competitive total went with him. From 96 for 6 at the break, they added just 35 runs to their total while losing four more wickets in the first 40 minutes of the second session.
The most significant wicket for England was that of Strauss, who needed a big innings to justify his selection ahead of the in-form Owais Shah, who made 96 on Monday. Instead he attempted to pull a short ball from O'Brien through midwicket, and top-edged a simple catch to How, jogging back from the slip cordon. England were 17 for 2 at the end of the sixth over, and that soon become 38 for 3 when Alastair Cook was squared up by Mark Gillespie, and spooned a leading edge to Jeetan Patel in the covers for 19.
England's situation could have got even worse had Pietersen, on 0, picked out Peter Fulton in the slips with a low edge off Gillespie. But he was soon batting with trademark confidence, striding down the wicket to disrupt the bowlers' lines and lengths. But his colleagues weren't capable of such chutzpah, and Ian Bell was the next to fall, brilliantly caught one-handed by the 'keeper, Bevan Griggs, diving to his right. That brought Paul Collingwood to the crease, but his fluent form of the one-day series deserted him in a tortuous innings. He took 22 balls to get off the mark (two fewer than he had required for his half-century at Napier) and it was no surprise when he fenced flat-footedly at Grant Elliott, enabling Griggs to complete his third catch of an impressive session.
With lunch looming, Pietersen muscled his way to his half-century, but then fell three balls later as he swished expansively outside off to give Mark Orchard his first scalp of the innings. It wasn't the situation that Tim Ambrose would have envisaged in his last chance to impress before his Test debut, and shortly after the resumption he was pinned lbw for 12 by O'Brien, who then nicked Matthew Hoggard's off bail one over later. Steve Harmison made a first-ball duck as he edged Gillespie to Ross Taylor at first slip, and Gillespie rounded off the innings by bowling Monty Panesar for 4.
If there had been an expectation that England would reply in kind, it was quickly scotched as Bell and How bedded into their partnership. Using soft hands to guide the ball through third man, and easing the seamers through the covers whenever their lengths strayed, they did their utmost to put their woes in the opening match behind them. How greeted Harmison's first delivery with a rasping pull for four, and though Bell took a painful blow to the solar plexus from Chris Tremlett, that was as close as England came to unsettling either opener.
It was Hoggard who eventually broke the stand, as Bell pushed outside off stump to give Ambrose his first catch of the innings. But How rumbled on, flushed with confidence after his exploits in the one-day series. He brought up his fifty with a thumping square cut off Collingwood, and then uppercut Harmison sweetly for six over third man. But that same shot eventually brought about his downfall - Tremlett banged one in short, and Cook steadied himself well just inside the boundary's edge.
Regardless of the toothlessness of England's seam attack, Vaughan chose to allow Monty Panesar a mere three overs at the tail-end of the day. Instead he recalled Harmison for a late burst in the evening light, and the move was rewarded when Taylor threw the kitchen sink at a wide delivery and Strauss - a reassuring presence at first slip - clung onto a flying edge at head-height. Collingwood then dented Fulton's hopes of retaining his Test place by trapping him lbw for 23, but Mathew Sinclair and Elliott carried the New Zealanders through to the close.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo