New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 3rd day March 15, 2008

Anderson in doubt after ankle injury

James Anderson has given England an injury scare as they aim to level the series © Getty Images
England's hopes of victory in the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington have taken a serious blow after their hero of the first innings, James Anderson, twisted his left ankle while playing football on the outfield after the close of the third day's play.

Anderson was a surprising selection for this match ahead of Matthew Hoggard, but he excelled in the first innings taking 5 for 73 in 20 overs of pacy swing bowling. According to an England spokesman, he received immediate ice treatment after going over his ankle during England's warm-down session.

There are no plans to send him for a scan as yet, and he was able to put weight on his foot soon afterwards. But he was seen leaving the ground on crutches, and it remains to be seen whether he will be fit to bat when England resume tomorrow on 277 for 9, let alone bowl.

If Anderson is unable to lead the attack, England's chances of drawing level in the series will rest on their remaining frontline seamers, Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad, as well as the spin of Monty Panesar. With an overnight advantage of 421, they would still remain huge favourites against a side that has only ever passed 400 twice in the fourth innings and lost both matches, but even before the news broke, New Zealand were confident of putting up a fight when their turn comes to bat.

"We're pretty jovial, there's a lot of time left in the match," said Kyle Mills, who felt that the pitch conditions had eased significantly on the warmest day of the match so far. "If we get a day like today tomorrow and our batsmen can get in and cement themselves, I think it's game on because we bat a long way down.

"We feel a tick over 400 is definitely gettable," he added. "Hopefully we can get the final wicket fairly early tomorrow and hopefully there won't be many too clouds around. If we can get that sun on the wicket it can turn onto a flat one. There's so much time left in the match."

Paul Collingwood, who carried England into the ascendancy with his second half-century of the match, also agreed that the conditions for batting had improved overnight. "With the sun being out all day today, it has dried it out a touch," he said. "So we'll have to wait and see what it plays like tomorrow. There is still a little bit in there though."

England may have one eye on past contests if the track does turn out to be flat when their turn comes to bowl. On their last tour in 2001-02, Nathan Astle gave them an almighty scare with an incredible 222 from 178 balls, and carried New Zealand within 100 runs of chasing down a total in excess of 500.

Astle has moved on, but with aggressive strokeplayers such as Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum in their middle order, Collingwood predicted that New Zealand would come out fighting once again. "I think they will play the same way they are always playing and that's pretty positive," he said. "That is a good thing for us because it gives us chances. They're an aggressive side and if they get to four or five-down it'll be interesting to see how the McCullums and Orams come out to play it. It's a big total but the wicket has played really well and we have to bowl well to stop them from getting the target."

Another man who could be expected to rise to the occasion is the former captain, Stephen Fleming. He has never scored a century on his home ground at Wellington, and in his final appearance before his retirement, tomorrow would be the perfect day to break that duck. "He's a class batsman and I'm sure he'll want to cement his mark on this Test match," said Mills. "He always talks about doing well against England, but I'm sure he's looking forward to making a big contribution tomorrow."

New Zealand's record in Test run-chases is not too great, but the same players have enjoyed some notable success in one-day cricket, including against Australia last year when they twice chased down totals in excess of 330. "Australia posted those big scores and I guess at half-time people were writing us off and never thought we'll reach them.

"But this is just another target for us. There's a lot of belief in this team and if we play to our potential, play well and get the conditions to suit us, all I can say is game on, we'll definitely be fighting right to the end that's for sure."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo