A sensational hat-trick by Ryan Sidebottom shattered New Zealand’s run charge and ignited an England fightback on day four of the first cricket Test on Saturday.
New Zealand, who had been in control and rapidly building a challenging target, lost five wickets in 29 balls to be left struggling at 147-8 in their second innings.
Daniel Vettori, not out on 13, and Jeetan Patel on six were grimly trying to extend the lead of 269 while Sidebottom was basking in figures of 5-37 off 14 overs and Monty Panesar had 3-33 off 12.
Sidebottom’s consecutive wickets of Stephen Fleming, Mathew Sinclair and Jacob Oram — the first hat-trick against New Zealand in more than 70 years — was central to the dramatic switch of momentum.
New Zealand had started their second innings with a 122-run lead after dismissing England for 348.
Following the early loss of Matthew Bell, Fleming and Jamie How struck more than 3,6 an over as New Zealand upped the tempo, seeking a result despite England’s unhurried batting.
They raced to 99-1 in the 28th over when Sidebottom snatched the initiative, albeit assisted by some magnificent catching.
He started with the wicket of How for 39, claimed in a high and diving fashion by Matthew Hoggard.
On the last ball of his next over Sidebottom started his hat-trick run when he had Fleming flay once too often and he was gone for 66, caught by Alastair Cook diving to his left in the gully.
With the first two balls of his next over Sidebottom had Mathew Sinclair caught by Cook diving high to his left for two and Oram was trapped in front for a duck.
It was only the second hat-trick against New Zealand in their 338-Test history, with the first by England’s Maurice Allom in 1930 during New Zealand’s first-ever Test.
Between Sidebottom’s two overs, New Zealand had sent big-hitting Brendon McCullum to the wicket to keep the scoring rate up but his first attempt to sweep Panesar resulted in a top edge to Andrew Strauss.
Panesar followed up with the dismissal of first-innings centurion Ross Taylor, who drove the ball straight back to the bowler and was gone for six, and just before stumps he claimed Kyle Mills leg-before wicket for 11.
Through the first three-and-a-half days England had shown little inclination to dominate, batting at a pedestrian rate in reply to New Zealand’s first-innings 470.
On the fourth morning they put on a meagre 61 runs in the first session, losing Paul Collingwood on the way when he was trapped in front by Oram for 66.
It was just reward for the New Zealand all-rounder who, in his previous over, had Tim Ambrose dropped by wicketkeeper McCullum.
Ambrose relished the life and moved on to 55, posting a half-century in his Test debut. But the England innings fell apart soon after the resumption when the last three wickets fell for one run.
Patel was sitting on a hat-trick when he had Ambrose and Harmison both caught by Fleming at slip, and Mills wrapped up the innings when he had Panesar leg-before wicket without scoring.
Patel finished with 3-107 from 43 overs while fellow spinner Daniel Vettori took 2-88 from 56. Mills, Chris Martin and Oram took two wickets apiece. — AFP