First ANZ Test match drawn

The first ANZ Test match between the BLACKCAPS and England fizzled out to a draw today, after the tourists held on with the bat to keep the series even heading into the second game in Wellington.

Early wickets were required for the BLACKCAPS if they were to force a result on day five, but despite their most ardent efforts, England was able to withstand the onslaught and finished the day 420 for six before the captains shook hands to end the match.

Central to England’s efforts was night-watchman Steven Finn. The makeshift number three surprised everyone, including his own teammates (as conceded by Alastair Cook), by putting on a spectacularly patient 56 off 203 balls. The six-foot-seven strike bowler spent near-on five hours in the middle, shwoing the upmost diligence throughout. 

Yesterday’s centurion Nick Compton was the first to go today, eventually dismissed for a career-high 117. His fall brought a slither of hope to the home crowd, but his replacement Jonathan Trott also proved hard to remove.

Having regained a small lead, the game seemed to be heading for a draw. While there was no winner today, there was cause for excitement late on in the day.

Neil Wagner showed tremendous persistence all day and began to see the benefits just before the tea-break with two quick wickets. He ended with three wickets in the innings and had match analysis of seven for 183 off 54 overs.

But while he toiled hard, the BLACKCAPS were just not able to break through regularly enough.

An LBW off the bowling of Bruce Martin got rid of Finn, while a direct hit in the field from Tim Southee ran out Joe Root, bringing together Ian Bell (26*) and Matt Prior (23*) to the crease. Both were more subdued than normal, but did what was needed to see out the overs and save the match.

England showed some true fighting qualities in the final two days of the match, while New Zealand were also impressive and never appeared to give up despite a lengthy stint in the field.

The hosts might look at this as the one that got away, but there were enough signs there to let both sides know that this series will be a fight to the end.

We now eagerly await the second Test beginning Thursday.

Day four: England scraps to make it tough for BLACKCAPS

The BLACKCAPS maintain a 59 run lead at the end of day four of the first ANZ Test match at University Oval in Dunedin, despite England making an impressive start to their second innings.

The BLACKCAPS added a blistering 58 runs to their total from overnight before declaring at 460 for nine, giving them an imposing 292 run lead. Captain Brendon McCullum came out with clear intentions early on and put his foot firmly on the throttle to make an exhilarating 74 from 59 balls. Bruce Martin also showed his talent with the bat on debut with 41, before edging one in the 117th over to end the innings.

It left the BLACKCAPS with the task of taking ten English wickets for victory, but there’s a reason their opposition are ranked number two in the world and leading their revival was one of the best in the business – Alastair Cook.

The influential captain showed plenty of class to bring his side back from their dire position and gave the English supporters something to cheer about for the first time in the match. Equally capable was his co-opener Nick Compton, who proved he was more than worthy of his position in the side.

While the BLACKCAPS bowling attack beat the edge on a number of occasions, they were unable to land any early blows and England capitalised. 

The opening duo put on a whopping 231 for the opening wicket, before Cook was finally dismissed by Trent Boult for 116. He had however been one half of a pair who had made the BLACKCAPS job of cementing a victory increasingly difficult. He received a deserved standing ovation.

Not long after Compton brought up his own three-digit milestone. His celebration showed just how much meant to him – make no mistake, this was a man under pressure to score runs and he delivered.

At the end of the day Compton (102) remained at the crease as resolute as ever, while night-watchman Steven Finn saw off six balls without scoring to make sure his side would head into the final day just one wicket down.

It was a tough day in the field for the Kiwis and it will take something special tomorrow to force a result, but with a slender lead and fifth day pitch they’ll be determined to make it as tough as possible for the batsmen.

There’s still hope for tomorrow.

Day three: Rutherford sparkles as BLACKCAPS run rampant

The BLACKCAPS have continued their dominance in the first ANZ Test match at University Oval in Dunedin, with debutant Hamish Rutherford stealing the show with a majestic 171.

The young Otago opener put himself amongst some elite company with the knock, making the seventh highest score on debut in Test history. It was also the backbone of the BLACKCAPS total of 402 for seven at day’s close, giving them a substantial 235 run lead heading into the fourth day.

Just about the entire batting line-up contributed for the home side, with six players making starts of 24 or more.

Having resumed at 131 without loss in the first session, Peter Fulton (55) and Rutherford continued to inflict misery upon the English bowlers and were ten runs away from a first-innings lead before Fulton was dismissed in the 51st over.

It gave the Barmy Army some reason to cheer, but it was soon the home fans who were brought to life as Rutherford cemented himself as a local hero when he brought up his century off 138 balls. There were some exquisite shots, but none more so than the off-drive he played to bring up the milestone – rapturous applause followed.

Alongside Kane Williamson (24) and Taylor (31) he continued to entertain and looked a chance to repeat Matthew Sinclair’s feat of a double-century on debut. Sadly though it wasn’t to be, with the introduction of the new ball causing him to mistime one off James Anderson and bring his 217 ball master-class to a close.

All who witnessed it knew it was something special and if his first Test is anything to go by, Rutherford looks set to remain a household name.

Following his dismissal the BLACKCAPS made a handful of starts to keep their total creeping up, including a hastily made 44 run seventh wicket partnership between Brendon McCullum (44*) and Tim Southee (25).

While talk of a declaration became stronger with every run that was added, it was the weather that forced the BLACKCAPS to stop batting, with rain and deteriorating light seeing the day called off prematurely.

It remains to be seen whether the New Zealand side will look to add to their total tomorrow morning or have another crack with the ball at the English top-order. Bruce Martin remains at the crease with his captain on 17 not out.

James Anderson plugged away all day for England and was justly rewarded with four hard earned wickets. Stuart Broad also contributed with two scalps, while Monty Panesar had one.

It’s been two days of BLACKCAPS dominance – it won’t be easy, but a third might see them take a one nil series lead.

There could well be a few Kiwis praying for sunshine in Dunedin tomorrow.

Day two: BLACKCAPS in firm control

Following a washed out day one, the BLACKCAPS have made up for lost time with a simply brilliant performance with both bat and ball at University Oval in Dunedin on the second day.

The Barmy Army turned up in their numbers, but had little to cheer about early on as the English top-order collapsed to 71 for five. It didn’t get much better for the visitors, as the BLACKCAPS maintained their pressure with the ball and dismissed England for 167.

It was enough to bring the home crowd to their feet - but the entertainment hadn’t finished for them yet, with debutant Hamish Rutherford (77*) and the returning Peter Fulton (46*) putting on an unbeaten 131 for the opening wicket.

New Zealand are now just 36 runs behind England’s total with all ten wickets in hand.

The two openers started positively in their reply and some elegant strokes from Rutherford in particular kept the scoreboard ticking along nicely. The danger of strike bowlers James Anderson and Steven Finn were negated expertly and the pair quickly settled into a groove.

Rutherford was fortunate to survive late on in the day when he was dropped by Kevin Pietersen, but it was an otherwise convincing display and one that has the BLACKCAPS in great shape heading into the final three days.

Earlier, three wickets in the space of 10.3 overs had England reeling at 18 for three. Tim Southee initially broke through the defences of Nick Compton (0), before Neil Wagner made a double break through when he sent star batsmen Alastair Cook (10) and Kevin Pietersen (0) packing on consecutive deliveries.

Bruce Martin also made his debut memorable by making Matt Prior (23) his first international wicket. The Auckland Aces spinner then tore the heart out of the English lower-order with three further wickets to finish with figures of four for 43 from 14 overs.

Wagner will also be chuffed with his output today, claiming his career best-stats of four for 42 from 11 overs. His wickets at the top were pivotal to New Zealand’s dominance and it would have no doubt been made even more special by the fact he achieved it on his home ground.

Had it not been for a typically gritty 45 from Jonathan Trott, the English may have folded even sooner. There was however some wag left in the tail, with Finn (23) and Anderson (20) both showing some fight to take their side past the 150 mark – a rare thing for England to have to be concerned about.

Few could even have hoped for such a one-sided display, but the BLACKCAPS will be well aware they will need to continue strongly with the bat tomorrow to take advantage of their current dominance.

Watch this space…

Rain ruins day one

The teams were ready, the covers were off and just as play was about to begin… the heavens opened up on day one at University Oval.

And that, unfortunately, would be the story of the day.

Not a ball was bowled on day one of the highly anticipated first ANZ Test match between England and New Zealand at University Oval, Dunedin. Constant rain kept players and fans frustrated all day as the damp conditions saw the day called off at 4:00pm.

Earlier, New Zealand had won the toss and opted to bowl first- they’ll get their first opportunity to make inroads tomorrow.

Play will start at 10:00am, and be able to go through to 6:00pm.

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