England 441 and 8 for 0 need another 274 runs to beat New Zealand 386 and 336 (Richardson 101, McCullum 96, Harmison 4-76)
Runs might not have flowed off the bat, but the fourth day of the Lord's Test was a pulsating affair with fortunes ebbing and flowing throughout. At the close, England were 8 for 0, needing another 274 runs to win.
New Zealand's hero was Mark Richardson, who made up for his first-innings disappointment by scoring 101. As with all Richardson innings, it was one savoured by the purists - and the Beige Brigade - rather than by anyone brought up on the crash-bang-wallop of one-day cricket. Cruelly sawn off by Darrell Hair on 93 late on Thursday, only the most hardened England supporter could have wanted him to miss out again as he struggled through the nervous nineties.
He reached his hundred with a scrambled single, crouched down for a brief private moment, before jumping up and punching the air in delight. The warm appreciation from the crowd showed that they realised the importance of his innings. In a world which demands instant gratification, there is still room for a good old-fashioned plodder.
Were it not for Richardson then New Zealand would be facing defeat as their other batsmen, with the exception of the unwell Nathan Astle, failed to ignite. The pace of play was slow - the last couple of days had not been frenetic, but cameos from Chris Cairns and Andrew Flintoff had enlivened them. Today, there was no such cameo, but it was gripping stuff nevertheless. The three-quarter-full ground obviously thought so, as there wasn't a hint of a Mexican wave, usually the first hint of boredom.
The Brendon McCullum who batted this morning was a shadow of the confident strokeplayer who hit the ball to all parts last night. As his hundred beckoned he retreated further into his shell with each delivery he faced, and with Richardson playing the anchor role at the other end, runs dried up.
The turning point came with the introduction of Simon Jones. Getting considerable reverse swing with the old ball, he tormented McCullum, repeatedly beating the outside edge, and there was an inevitability when he finally found the outside edge for Geraint Jones to hold the easiest of chances (180 for 3). McCullum made 96 and for the third time in the match a New Zealander had been deprived of a deserved hundred.
His dismissal triggered a mini-collapse, and it was Giles who did the damage with two wickets in an over. Until then, he had cast a lonely figure as he wheeled away with the batsmen using their feet to him with what amounted to contempt. But Scott Styris's record against left-armers is not good, and his defensive jab found the edge as Nasser Hussain took a good reflex catch at silly point (187 for 3). Craig McMillan clearly decided on a policy of hammering Giles, but his attempted sweep off his second ball tickled the bottom edge of his bat and Hussain took another good catch (187 for 4).
When Jacob Oram was well run-out by Hussain shortly after lunch, New Zealand were 203 for 5, a lead of only 148. But Richardson and Astle dug in, and their sixth-wicket stand of 84 thwarted England through the afternoon. Giles, boosted by his success, bowled unchanged from the Nursery End for a session and a half, and Jones continued to probe without reward.
England enjoyed their best period after tea when they grabbed four quick wickets, three to Stephen Harmison who took 3 for 16 in five overs - and eight of the runs he conceded were edged boundaries which on another day might have gone to hand. He dismissed Richardson, Astle, and Daniel Vettori, all caught by Geraint Jones, and Giles picked up a third when Mark Butcher held a diving catch at deep midwicket to remove the dangerous Chris Cairns for 14.
But Geraint Jones then turned from hero to villain when he spilt an oh-so-routine chance from Daryl Tuffey off Harmsion. That was with the score on 314 for 9, and eight runs later Martin was bowled by a Simon Jones no-ball. Tuffey rode his luck, and with Chris Martin went on to add another 24 runs before Andrew Flintoff bowled Martin with the first ball of a new spell.
England were left with a tricky five overs which they negotiated with few alarms. They will have to bat well tomorrow, but the pitch remains true and the weather forecast is good. It promises to be a belter.
Admission at Lord's on Monday is 10 (adults), 5 (U-16 and OAPs).
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo.