New Zealand 351 for 6 (Fleming 97, Papps 86, Cairns 41*) v England
A hundred partnership between Stephen Fleming and Michael Papps, along with a late flurry of boundaries from Chris Cairns, helped New Zealand to 351 for 6 on the second day of the second Test at Headingley. After the overnight pair had put on 169 and frustrated England's attack, Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff struck back with two wickets each, but New Zealand wrested back control of an intriguing day's play.
The watchful stand between Fleming and Papps provided the foundations of New Zealand's solid base, from which they can attack tomorrow. They frustrated the bowlers as they worked the quick singles and rotated the strike instead of hitting the big boundaries. They batted throughout the morning session, adding 86 runs in that time with a little luck on the way, and almost made it through to tea.
Considering the overcast skies, especially at the start of play, the England attack didn't make the most of the conditions. Apart from a batch of wickets either side of tea, they failed to find a consistent probing line and length, and handed the initiative to New Zealand.
There was no dramatic strokeplay from Fleming and Papps, just nudges around the ground with the odd four. The two early chances which did come England's way were both squandered. Papps, when 36, slashed Flintoff to gully, where Ashley Giles failed to hold on to the chance low to his left, then Paul Collingwood, the substitute fielder, missed an easy chance to run out Fleming.
Fleming made the bowlers pay for that letoff by guiding Flintoff for three consecutive boundaries. England thought they had their man when, on 40, Fleming dived full-length towards his crease as Michael Vaughan, at mid-off, hit the stumps. But the TV replays showed Fleming was comfortably home, and next ball he whipped another short one from Matthew Hoggard to the boundary for good measure.
As the sun slowly broke through the clouds, the batsmen continued to make hay and further frustrate the England attack. Papps reached his second Test half-century soon after lunch, and his confidence then grew. He pulled Giles to the square-leg fence, and later cover-drove him to the rope. That immediately forced Giles back over the wicket, but Papps rocked back to cut him past point.
Fleming also began to step up a gear. He came down the track to Giles and placed the ball wide of midwicket for four, pulled Hoggard to move into the seventies, and then drove him down the ground for three to bring up the 150 stand. At that stage, England were drifting along aimlessly, but the tireless Flintoff continued to huff and puff, and he eventually blew the obstinate Papps down shortly before tea. Bowling round the wicket, Flintoff arrowed the ball into Papps's toes plumb in front of middle stump to trap him leg-before for a gutsy 86 (202 for 2).
That was the start of England's brief resurgence. Harmison made the big breakthrough with the wicket of Fleming for 97 in the second over after tea. Attempting to clip Harmison through mid-on for the runs that would have brought up his seventh Test century, Fleming got a leading edge and spooned the ball to Vaughan at a wide mid-off (215 for 3). It was the fourth time Fleming has been out in the nineties.
Then Martin Saggers got in on the act when Nathan Astle slashed him to Mark Butcher at gully. It wasn't the best of deliveries - short and wide - but Astle crunched it towards Butcher, who took a spectacular catch diving to his left (215 for 4).
Scott Styris and Jacob Oram did their best to settle things down again for New Zealand. Styris, in particular, made a nervy start, surviving a loud shout for lbw first ball from Harmison. He later launched Giles over long-on for six, but Harmison returned to get his man when Styris edged a lifting ball outside off through to Geraint Jones for 21 (264 for 5). Oram was positive from the start, hitting four fours, including an eye-catching back-foot drive off Flintoff. He also top-edged Harmison for an astonishing six, but then nicked Flintoff to a diving Graham Thorpe at second slip for 39 (293 for 6).
England were back in the hunt and had their tails up, but an unbroken stand of 58 between Cairns and Brendon McCullum deflated their bubble. Both batsmen belted five fours, with Cairns tucking into the expensive Giles, and McCullum pulling Flintoff for two successive boundaries.
It didn't help England's cause that Vaughan left shortly after 6pm fter hearing that his wife was close to giving birth to their first child. At least he will have had a day to remember off the pitch ...