England trail by 59 runs with 9 wickets in hand
For a short while, the day was full of frenetic, exciting and frankly funny action; once Brendon McCullum was dismissed and he shortly thereafter declared, it became a battle of wills (the England openers’ and the viewers’). With the pitch offering as much life as some discarded fibreboard, Alastair Cook and Nick Compton were largely untroubled, but understandably neither did they have the need or the desire to score quickly. Bruce Martin’s short spell of dot balls to Compton will plague our dreams for a long time to come.
Before play started, the debate rumbled about whether McCullum would declare or keep batting – and once the latter was the chosen route, the next question was for how long? It wasn’t a long period of play, but the sight of anything that James Anderson or Stuart Broad bowled disappearing either over square leg or through deep third man was fairly hilarious. Neutrals – if such a thing exist when England are playing – would have wanted it to continue for longer, but once McCullum heaved the ball quite literally into the mesosphere and was well caught by Anderson, the fun was over.
With barely a ball deviating from the straight, the bowlers had it tough. They kept battling however, and though the defence-minded batting from England helped slow the run-rate, none of the four front line bowlers were disgraced in the 84.5 overs before a wicket fell (Cook, edging Trent Boult to the wicket-keeper BJ Watling).
Once the first few overs of the innings passed with only an LBW appeal (via Cook’s inside edge) as any sign of danger, it was a case of England doing the complete opposite of their first innings. The captain’s hundred was inevitable (that’s six in seven matches as skipper and 24 in total now), but his comrade at the top of the order was a different story. Regularly looking in danger of being bogged down, he seldom offered chances until a couple of spicy singles as his score approached three figures. Before then though, it was all about his mentality, with a nagging feeling amongst the 51allout nighthawks that his hard work would be undone by a careless shot to break free of the Kiwi’s shackles. There will be better hundreds – possibly even scored by Compo himself – but few are as touchingly celebrated as this maiden ton was by his spectating father. Throughout the high 90s Compton Snr looked as distraught as someone being offered the choice of losing a finger in a vice or a toe in a blender, but as Junior sprinted, jumped and punched the air, dad grinned, wiped away some tears and did a double fisted sign of relief and joy.
The pitch is offering very little assistance to the bowlers (notwithstanding the late wicket of Cook and a peach of a delivery from Southee that would have been a cracking ball at the WACA) and a draw looks nailed on – good news for those who stuck the price of a pint of premium lager on that particular result. England will presumably want to try and give their middle order some more time at the crease (which will be great if the middle order decide not to whack the ball straight to the fielders this time) whilst also crushing the New Zealand seamers into the ground all day.
Having said that, England still trail by 59 runs and a few early wickets might just create the tension, fear and excitement that the nightowls back home are dreading.