New Zealand gave it a go, but without a steady top order contribution it was always going to struggle to score the 223 needed to beat England and prevent the National Bank Series being tied up 2-2 going in Tuesday's last match.

Two rain showers, one of which halted play for an hour and a quarter, denied New Zealand the chance to repeat the shutdown of England's batting they managed in the first match in Christchurch and, it has to be said, denied England the chance to have a late-order fling with wickets in hand.

As a result, New Zealand may be forced to rejuvenate their squad for the last game. They need a bowler who can contribute for 10 overs of accurate bowling and while Ian Butler offered speed, that is not likely to be a significant factor on the outstanding pitch that will be on offer at Carisbrook on Tuesday.

It could be that James Franklin will be the man New Zealand look to in place of Butler while Brendon McCullum, who allowed the situation to get the better of him in Auckland tonight may just hold on as 12th man.

It was a mixed up day in a lot of ways, the rain interruptions cut short a highly-productive England innings. They recovered well after losing Marcus Trescothick for a duck off the third ball but what might have been the crucial moment in the innings was the senseless run out of Nick Knight for 40.

The situation was entirely of his own doing as Graham Thorpe had played a shot square to Daryl Tuffey and always seemed to be aware that it was only worth a single, but when he turned at the bowler's end, he found Knight almost back at the same end, and Tuffey's through to Daniel Vettori was thrown on to Chris Nevin with Knight already taking off his gloves and heading for the pavilion.

However, the incident was not as costly as it might have been because Michael Vaughan did take great advantage of his first chance for a bat in the series and he played a priceless inings of 59 before he too was run out. Apparently something of a bad luck merchant, Vaughan was out when he played a ball back to Vettori, advanced a little down the pitch only to see Vettori rifle a return back to the stumps.

Vaughan turned and looked to make his ground, but as he did the ball broke the wickets at about the same time as he dropped his bat and he was out for 59 off 53 balls. He and Thorpe put on 89 off 87 balls in a highly-effective partnership.

His misfortune with the bat was compounded after he took two catches in the field and then, when looking for a third, but eventually realising he could only field the ball, he fell on the turf and in the process he injured his shoulder and had to leave the field. He will have a scan tomorrow and is doubtful for the Tuesday match, but not for the rest of the tour.

The second rain shower meant Thorpe was denied 10 overs in which to cart the bowling with wickets in hand.

The score of 193/6 was more than enough for England to apply the screws as under the Duckworth/Lewis system, New Zealand were required to score 223 in the 40 overs.

Drop-in wickets are proving great for New Zealand's opponents. Firstly Pakistan in last summer's Test match at Eden Park, and now England here. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss and New Zealand players are reading too much into the pitches.

The New Zealanders had to contend with a fine opening spell from both Darren Gough and Matthew Hoggard. The brace of maidens they bowled at the start of the innings seemed to put the pressure on New Zealand even more, and they did not respond well.

Nevin edged a ball moving across him to Trescothick on eight while McCullum showed bad judgment in attempting to hit out and was easily caught by Vaughan off a skied chance for five.

Stephen Fleming hit straight to Vaughan at point for eight while Craig McMillan was caught by Knight off Andrew Flintoff for 10. When Lou Vincent went for seven, the batting had been decimated, the chance for victory gone and 38 runs being the contribution of five of the top six batsmen in the side.

Nathan Astle scored 23 but at nowhere near his usual pace and it was left to Chris Cairns (58 off 56 balls), Chris Harris (23 off 28) and Andre Adams (26 off 14) to keep fans from walking out the gate.

As it was Flintoff came back with Gough and they finished off the innings, Flintoff taking four for 17 from seven overs, his best One-Day International figures, and Gough two for 33. Hoggard had earlier taken two for 27.

Hoggard applied the pressure well to the top order while Flintoff did a fine mopping up job.

The stage has been set for a tremendous finale to the series. The crowd of 36,278 had plenty of entertainment. England are on a roll, New Zealand have to do what they do best, scrap all the way back from the position they are now in, and Dunedin awaits with the perfect finale on their back door step.

For all concerned it is now a case of Carisbrook or bust.