New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day March 16, 2008

Sublime to ridiculous


After catching some some blinders last week and losing, England dropped some sitters and are on course for victory in Wellington © AFP
 
Drops of the day

Catches win matches? What bunk. England caught like sheets of flypaper in the first Test at Hamilton - and succumbed to one of their most humiliating defeats in years. And so at Wellington they've veered off in the opposite direction. Their ground fielding has been dreadful, particularly that of Monty Panesar, and today their catching followed suit. Five different fielders dropped five different batsmen, and Tim Ambrose committed his biggest error to date, a missed stumping off Jacob Oram. But the howler to end all howlers was committed by Kevin Pietersen, who is not, it is fair to say, enjoying the best of tours. Ross Taylor, on 30, swung Panesar high down to mid-off, where Pietersen ran in, turned two pirouettes, got both hands to the offering, and palmed it to the ground.

Sucker punch of the day

Anderson spent most of the morning struggling uphill and into the teeth of a howling southerly gale - hardly the reward you'd expect after ripping out five first-innings wickets. Perhaps it was a ploy to keep him light on his feet, after the drama of his ricked ankle during yesterday's football knockabout. Either way, he reaped his rewards as soon as he returned from the Scoreboard End of the ground. With the very first ball of his post-tea spell, he banged in a half-tracker, and Mathew Sinclair inexplicably flapped it into Ian Bell's midriff at short cover. On a day of unforced errors, that was arguably the most culpable.

Pillock of the day

Or "f***ing pillock," as Ryan Sidebottom appeared to comment after Graeme Swann's solitary contribution to the day's play. He came on briefly as a replacement for Michael Vaughan, and enjoyed his moment in the limelight when Oram pushed speculatively towards him at mid-on. There was no threat of a run, and no point in doing anything other than wander over to Sidebottom and place the ball firmly in his hand as he walked back to his mark. Instead, he winged a loose shy towards Ambrose, who back-pedalled frantically, but couldn't extend his dinky frame quite far enough. One of the Kiwi papers denounced Ambrose as a "hobbit" after his first-day 97, but it was Swann who wanted to burrow into the ground.

Over of the day

Since making his debut in Colombo in December, Stuart Broad had managed just two wickets in 56 overs of Test cricket. It was not for want of trying, however, and today he doubled his tally in the space of five balls. They were two of the finest deliveries of the match as well, and they sent New Zealand crashing from a comfortable 69 for 1 to a dicey 70 for 3. First he dealt with the obdurate Matthew Bell, who was forced to play on the line of off stump and edged low for Ambrose to scoop a good catch to his right. Then, after a risky single to get Sinclair off the mark, Broad bagged the big one. Stephen Fleming shouldered arms to a pearler that held its line and clipped the top of off, and Broad's jubilation was unconfined.

Farewell of the day

In the end it wasn't to be. Fleming's hometown crowd have been waiting 14 years and 18 Tests for their favourite son to grace them with a Test century, but in the final analysis his highest score will remain the 97 he made against West Indies two years to the weekend ago. He left the field to the obligatory standing ovation and a bashful wave of the bat, but in the tea break he was back out for seconds. Wellington Cricket, represented by their CEO, Gavin Larsen, presented Fleming with a commemorative photo and a microphone had been rigged up, presumably for a few words. But Fleming was having none of it. With his mind still in match mode, he accepted the offering as graciously as he could, and stalked back to the dressing-room.

Shots of the day

Brendon McCullum does not like to stand on ceremony. His favourite pace is flat-out, so his 65-ball 43 was really quite measured by his standards. But he still produced two emphatic statements of intent, and they both came off the bowling of the luckless Panesar. First he dropped to one knee and drilled him brutally over wide mid-on, then two overs later, he stepped calmly down the track and lofted him with sheer timing over long-off. One merciless stroke, one measured. Both maximums. Everyone in the game is aware of what he is capable.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo