England on brink of series win over NZ

Monty Panesar took England to the brink of a series victory as New Zealand slumped to 222-5, 330 runs in arrears at stumps on the fourth day of the third cricket Test on Tuesday.

With New Zealand set a record target of 553 to win, Stephen Fleming and Matthew Bell provided stout resistance for the second wicket before Panesar removed both batsmen in the space of 12 deliveries.

Stuart Broad then carved through the middle order as New Zealand lost four wickets for 25 runs in the final session.

Ross Taylor was not out 34 and Brendon McCullum on 24 at stumps, with Daniel Vettori the only recognised batsman left going into the final day.

Fleming and Bell both posted half centuries as they battled to save the Test for New Zealand with a 99-run stand for the second wicket.

But with the third ball after tea Panesar made the breakthrough, dismissing Bell for 69 when he gifted a straightforward catch to Broad at deep backward square.

Two overs later Fleming’s acclaimed 111-Test career ended on 66 when he edged the spinner to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.

Fleming achieved a personal milestone when he reached 54, raising his career average to 40, the benchmark for a recognised batsman.

But he had said before the match it was more important for him in his final Test to produce a match-winning innings, which would have meant a much longer stay at the crease if New Zealand are to reach their formidable target.

After Panesar removed Jamie How early in the New Zealand innings, Fleming and Bell moved the innings along with ease, showing the pitch was ripe for batting despite the high wicket count on the first three days.

Bell, batting for survival in the New Zealand squad after a disappointing series so far, brought up his fifth career 50 driving Ryan Sidebottom through cover for four.

Fleming reached his 46th half century sweeping Panesar through midwicket.

When New Zealand went to tea at 146-1 their target was distant but still achievable.

But the momentum changed three balls after the resumption with the removal of Bell and Fleming soon after.

Mathew Sinclair reached six before he was caught by Ambrose fending off a rising Broad delivery, and Grant Elliot was on four when he prodded Broad to Ian Bell at short leg.

Taylor and McCullum have put on 50 for the sixth wicket.

Taylor moved cautiously to 34 off 75 balls while the more flamboyant McCullum was on 24 from 38 deliveries, and was dropped by Kevin Pietersen in the gully off the first ball of the final over of the day.

England resumed their second innings on the fourth morning at 416-5 and with Andrew Strauss targeting a double century.

But he only lasted 11 balls before being caught at mid-off by Bell off the bowling of Jeetan Patel for 177, ending a marathon eight-hour innings in which he faced 343 balls and hit 25 fours.

Fellow overnight batsman Ambrose lasted three further overs before he was caught and bowled by Vettori for 28, and when the innings ended Broad was not out 31 with Ryan Sidebottom on 12.

Vettori, the most successful of the New Zealand bowlers, produced figures of 4-158 off 45 overs, while Patel took 2-104 from 30.5.

It is the second time in the series that England have set New Zealand a world-record fourth-innings target after being asked to chase 438 in the second Test in Wellington and falling 126 runs short.

New Zealand won the first Test in Hamilton by 189 runs.

The highest successful run chase by a New Zealand team was 324-5 against Pakistan 14 years ago.

The record winning fourth-innings total is 418 by the West Indies when they beat Australia in 2003. — AFP



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