Jamie How couldn't hide his disappointment at the close of play after falling eight runs short of a maiden Test century, but he took solace in the fact that his efforts had given New Zealand a fighting chance of a competitive total in the first Test against England at Hamilton.
"It's in the balance still," said How, after New Zealand reached the close handily placed on 282 for 6. "We lost a couple more wickets than we'd have liked, but there were a few itchy moments out there. The England bowlers bowled well all day and it was a hard slog as shown by the run-rate. It would have been nice to cap it off, but tomorrow morning, in the first hour, it's a big part of the game."
How burst into the limelight during New Zealand's one-day series win, where he scored a remarkable century in the tied ODI at Napier, but his failure to emulate that effort today cleared grated. After going to the tea break on 90 not out, he survived just eight more deliveries as Monty Panesar turned one past his defences and into the hands of Paul Collingwood at slip.
"You keep reminding yourself that if someone gave you 90 at the start of the day you'd be happy," said How, "but it still hurts and I'll be replaying that last over for quite a while. But hopefully not for too long."
Nevertheless, his innings was a distinct improvement on his previous efforts in Test cricket, in which he had managed a top score of 37 in six matches. "It's been a bit frustrating," he said. "I haven't played well in Test cricket in my first few games and you see the stats come up and it's a bit embarrassing to be honest. I'll be working hard to put it right. I'm not a big stats person but it's nice to get that highest score."
Despite his downbeat demeanour, How clearly felt that his international career had turned a corner following his success in the one-dayers. "It gave me confidence and form," he said. "I like to give myself time, even in the one-dayers, so it was nice to dig in and let them come to you and bat for as long as you can today. I set myself up to bat late into that last session, but unfortunately it wasn't to be."
New Zealand's hopes of a big score now rest on the shoulders of Ross Taylor, who also produced his best score to date in Test cricket. Belying his one-day reputation as a big-hitter, he knuckled down for an unbeaten 54 from 121 balls, and How was impressed with his application.
"It's a work in progress, but I've not seen him that disciplined or that straight," he said. "He stuck at it, and in such an unfamiliar way because he's such an aggressive player. But he tempered that well."