'If we can manufacturer a 150 to 180 lead - out of somewhere - then who knows what can happen' © Getty Images
In what was his last innings of the series, a rearguard 71 from Brendon McCullum almost gave New Zealand the belief of producing the unthinkable against England, on the third day of the final Test at Trent Bridge. Dominating a partnership of 94 with Daniel Flynn, who showed tremendous courage in his 49, the pair nearly saw New Zealand through to stumps before James Anderson bowled McCullum off an inside edge. Now, though, with just five second-innings wickets remaining, still trailing by 64 runs, Flynn and McCullum's stand appears to have just delayed the inevitable.

Flynn has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the last two weeks. An horrific blow to his mouth from an Anderson bouncer at Old Trafford displaced two teeth, requiring visits to hospital and three separate treatments by a dentist. Lesser mortals would have been placed straight on a plane home but, remarkably for such a severe injury, Flynn was desperate to return to the middle. In addition to the obvious bravery he showed, there was no shortage of ability either. Anderson and Stuart Broad repeatedly teased him outside his off stump, but Flynn's resolve was unwavering, and he drew praise from his senior partner at the end of the day's play.

"Flynny is a tough character and desperately wants to play cricket for New Zealand," McCullum said. "He's come back from a horrific injury in a very short space of time, but was very, very keen to get out there right from the word go. So it's great from his perspective and development that he was able to get out there and contribute like he was able to, in tough conditions like they were."

It was McCullum who dominated the partnership however, giving New Zealand hope - however faint - that, just possibly, they might be able to set England a challenging total. "We put a pretty good partnership [together] which gave us a bit of belief within the team. We're obviously desperately disappointed to lose both Daniel and myself at the end, but saying that, we're closer than where we were at the start of the day.

"We're obviously behind the eight-ball, but you've always got to have hope. If we can manufacturer a 150 to 180 lead - out of somewhere - then who knows what can happen. We're definitely still hopeful."

Such confidence is to be expected of New Zealand's master batsman. Realistically, however, only he - and possibly Ross Taylor had he not fallen for a disappointing 14 - could have turned the match New Zealand's way today, and McCullum remained philosophical of his 71, despite his obvious disappointment.

"I couldn't keep wicket this game, so had the opportunity to play as just a batsman. I was disappointed not to get runs in the first innings, and also not to still be out there in the second innings today, but it was nice to make some kind of contribution.

"As soon as you get that cloud cover, it's pretty tough out there. I don't think the wicket has played too much of a part - maybe [in] the first hour of the first day. It's probably more what the ball's doing in the air - and with inswing and outswing, it's pretty tough. They bowled very well in the conditions they have had.

"It was disappointing to get out; I'd hoped there might be a bit more reward for the application I was trying to show, but I'll learn from what went on out there, how I faced with the conditions and changed my game, and hopefully that'll make me a better player in the future."

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo