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England v New Zealand at Manchester
5-9 Aug 1999 (John Ward)

Day1 | Day2 | Day3 | Day4 | Day5

Day1: Weather disrupts opening day in Manchester

After the driest July in Manchester for many a long moon, the rain returned to Old Trafford to coincide with the Test match against New Zealand. Steady rain fell overnight and in the early morning, and there were still occasional spots as a meagre crowd wended its way to the historic ground. All was dry in the atmosphere by the regular starting time of 11 a.m., but unfortunately all was not dry on the outfield, which was distinctly soggy. It was announced tha t a further inspection would take place at 11.15.

Umpires David Shepherd and Russell Tiffin from Zimbabwe then decided that play would start at 12 noon. Mark Butcher on his Test captaincy debut won the toss for England and decided to bat, to the visible disappointment of Stephen Fleming. The pitch itself was still dry and expected to play well to start with, despite being riddled with cracks. Clearly it was likely to favour spin as the match progr essed, and as anticipated England opted to play two spinners and leave out Alan Mullally after his poor match at Lord's. For their part New Zealand decided to include all-rounder Chris Harris for his first match of the series, in place of Geoff Allott, w hich gave further depth to their batting line-up but left them with only three genuine frontline bowlers. Perhaps it was thought this should be enough against the English batsmen. The weather itself remained heavily overcast and it looked rather doubtfu l whether play would be possible throughout the rest of the day.

Chris Cairns, opening the bowling for New Zealand from the Warwick Road end, had an embarrassing first over, including a ball that cut away so wide of the off stump that it ran to the boundary for four wides between first and second slip. A push into the covers off Nash got local boy Atherton off the mark, to the satisfaction of the crowd, which filled perhaps 20% of the ground, many no doubt discouraged by the weather. The first boundary came as Butcher sweetly square-drove Cairns to end the third over . Butcher had a narrow escape from a similar run-out to the one he suffered at Edgbaston when he backed up halfway down the pitch while Atherton temporarily dithered over a push into the covers, but the throw was poor.

Butcher was not to enjoy a successful batting debut as captain, having only five to his credit when he played back to a delivery from Cairns that moved away from him off the pitch and took the edge, to be caught low down at first slip by Fleming. England were 13 for one, with Stewart in to bat.

England became badly bogged down on 17, with Stewart taking 24 balls to get off the mark and in the meantime taking a painful blow on the forearm from Cairns which held up play for several minutes while he received treatment. The New Zealand bowling was e nthusiastic, although Cairns especially strayed in direction at times, but England remained virtually strokeless, well content to watch the balls by outside off stump. Stewart snicked a ball which fell only just short of Astle at slip, following which the players marched off for lunch. The score after 13 overs was 33 for one, with Atherton on 6 and Stew art 8.

After lunch, Stewart played an occasional good stroke but never looked in his best form, while Atherton remained badly bogged down. Cairns could hardly believe it as he had an lbw appeal against Stewart rejected by umpire Shepherd - a good shout but poss ibly a little high. Next ball he beat him comprehensively outside the off stump. The fifty finally came up in the 20th over, but Stewart was not to enjoy it for long. He prodded at a ball from Nash and was adjudged by umpire Tiffin to have snicked the slightest of edges through to the keeper. The television snickometer did not register a touch. Stewart made 23, and England were 54 for two. Atherton by now had made his way calmly to 11.

Thorpe was another batsman to be reprieved from a close lbw decision by umpire Shepherd before he had scored, this time to Astle. Umpire Tiffin was similarly reticent when Thorpe pushed a single and Cairns, changing ends after 14 consecutive overs either side of lunch, had a very good shout against him. Both balls straightened off the pitch and beat the bat.

At 2.45 a light drizzle started, the umbrellas came out and the players went in. England were now on 56 for two, with Atherton dug in on 11 and Thorpe with his single. The drizzle turned into fairly heavy rain, and it was not until 5 p.m. that play actu ally started again, this time with some intermittent sunlight. Play, it was stated, could continue until 7.12, unless the 32.4 overs declared to be remaining were bowled by 7 o'clock.

Thorpe steered Nash between the slips and gully for a four to open the scoring, but Atherton was doomed to return to the pavilion without adding to his score. Cairns drew him forward into a defensive stroke with a ball that moved away and grazed the outs ide edge on its way to the keeper. He had batted 90 balls for his 11, scoring off just five of them, and England were 60 for three.

This brought in Hick, and Cairns beat him comprehensively first ball with a similar delivery; he also beat the keeper, who conceded a bye. After one or two rather cramped defensive strokes against Nash, Hick got off the mark with a superbly timed four through extra cover. A pull over midwicket to end the over brought up his 3000 Test runs.

Cairns bowled a good over, troubling Thorpe, while Nash restrained Hick from causing further damage. In his third over at him, he had umpire Tiffin rejecting a good lbw appeal that might just have missed leg stump. A third four, an edged swing to leg, to ok him ahead of Atherton's score. Thorpe finally managed to master one from Cairns, driving him straight for a handsome four, before Nash took revenge on Hick, swinging in a yorker to hit him on the back foot and this time wringing the lbw decision from umpire Tiffin. He made 12 of England's 83 for four, with Thorpe still there on 15.

Ramprakash again began hesitantly, but slowly began to look more confident, and Thorpe finally brought up the hundred for England in the fiftieth over with a sweep for two to deep square leg. But there was no real effort to dominate the bowling, and a section of the crowd began to chant, "Boring! Boring!" The ground was still largely empty, and England's insipid batting was guaranteed not to help fill it on future days.

The crowd did gain some interest from the dismissal of Thorpe, caught at short leg by Bell off the left-arm spin of Vettori for 27, leaving England on 104 for five and bringing Headley to the crease as night-watchman. Ramprakash was still on 9.

England then successfully prodded their way to the close without further catastrophe, finishing on 108 for five after 61 overs, Ramprakash on 12 and Headley on 1. Whatever the weather, a large crowd will not be expected tomorrow. England's lack of talent may be forgiven, but not their lack of spirit and initiative.

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Day2: New Zealand in a strong position

England began the second day's play in a not unfamiliar position of being on the back foot and needing a rare gallant fightback to put themselves on even terms again.

The pitch was not a good one, and the ECB deserved some criticism for deciding to have a Test match at this venue at all in the full knowledge that it was being relaid, groundsman Peter Marron himself was not happy about it, and both Headingley and Trent Bridge had been omitted from this year's restricted programme in their Test centenary years.

Again the ground just before the start was less than half full, and spectators must have been wondering whether they would get their money's worth on this occasion. As it turned out, the play was considerably more interesting, especially for New Zealand supporters, and the ground at peak hours held about 13,000 spectators. Capacity is 19,000.

>From the start England did seem to show that they were going to use a little more initiative. When Cairns came on to bowl, Headley cut him very neatly for four. Conditions for batting did seem easier with the sun shining for much of the time through th e high clouds, and hopes began to rise that England might actually be willing to take advantage of them. Headley certainly tried to play his part, picking up well-placed ones and twos, but although Ramprakash looked comfortable and played firmly, he rarely did so to the point of actually scoring at that stage of the day.

Headley unfortunately was to give his wicket away rather too easily, jabbing a catch straight to Fleming at silly point off Harris. He made 18 of England's 133 for six, while Ramprakash had moved to 20. Read was perhaps a little too aggressive for his o wn good, trying to force his third ball from Harris off the back foot, coming down with an angled bat, and playing the ball on to his stumps with the thigh pad. At 133 for seven, England's grave was deepening.

As New Zealand decided not to take the second new ball when it became available, Ramprakash finally decided it was time to come out of his shell. He began to play much more assertively, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts stepped down the pitch and hammered Vettori high over mid-off almost for six.

Caddick did clear the boundary as he swung across the line to a ball from Harris outside the off stump to hoist it wide of long-on, and then played an excellent late cut to add another four to third man. This persuaded Fleming to call for the second new ball after 84 overs. It was scarcely responsible for the wicket to fall, though, as Caddick played a ball into the covers, was taken by surprise by Ramprakash's call for a quick second and then did not appear to run full pace after accepting the call. Harris ran round to return the ball to Parore, and Caddick was run out for 12 in a very similar situation to that which caused his dismissal in the first innings at Lord's. England were now 152 for eight, and Ramprakash on 27 had only the limited abilities of Such and Tufnell to sustain him.

New Zealand began to play the usual cat-and-mouse game of putting their fielders back to allow Ramprakash the single to get at Such, which the batsmen rejected - this always makes for unedifying cricket. Ramprakash did respond, though, with two superb boundaries off Cairns, pulling him through midwicket and then driving him through extra cover. Such hung on grimly, rather desperately at times, and Ramprakash, himself rather desperate, skyed a catch over Cairns' head, to be dropped off a very difficult chance by mid-on running round. But they hung on together until lunch, when England were 169 for eight, with Ramprakash on 42 and Such still on his marathon zero.

The battle of wits between the batsmen and Fleming's wide-spread fields continued, with Such neglecting or being forced to neglect several opportunities to score, while Ramprakash fought his way to his fifty, reached with a swiftly-run two to deep midwicket. But the New Zealand tactics of trying to keep Ramprakash away from the strike in preference to trying to get him out were questionable, especially with a new ball.

Such at the press conference said that his arrangement with Ramprakash had been that the latter would look for a single off the third or fourth ball of each over, leaving him to face the rest. In the event he still had to take about 50% of the strike, an d never succeeded in getting off the mark, yielding a bat-pad catch to Bell with the score on 183 for nine, Ramprakash being on 56. Such had faced 51 balls in 72 minutes, a noble duck and the longest zero in Test history after Geoff Allott's recent exploit.

Ramprakash continued to reject singles to the deep field, and took quite a bit of barracking from the crowd about this. A cracking square cut for four received very little applause compared with the roar that greeted Tufnell's first run, off his 18th bal l. However this success seemed to go to his head, as he sparred outside the off stump to his next ball from Nash and snicked a low catch to Astle at second slip. England were all out for 199, their highest first-innings total of the series, with Ramprakash left stranded on 69, his highest Test score in England. New Zealand, according to Such, bowled exceptionally well during England's innings, and deserved great credit.

When New Zealand batted, Caddick opened the bowling to Horne, swinging the ball away just outside the off stump so that the entire over went by without the batsman getting bat to ball - or needing to. Headley, on the other hand, moved the ball predominan tly in, hitting Bell in the back with one ball, but again giving the bats little exercise. Caddick's next over went the same way until the final ball when Horne, finally forced to make contact, snicked a neck-high catch straight at first slip Thorpe, who put it down, allowing a run off the rebound.

The first boundary came when Horne cracked a wide ball from Headley through extra cover, a stroke he repeated in the bowler's next over, before having another lucky escape, the ball hitting the shoulder of his bat and flying just clear of the slips on its way to the boundary. There were no such reservations about his next boundary, though, an on-drive in Headley's following over, but a snick for four off Caddick was less impressive. This was perhaps a riskier but more entertaining innings than his centu ry in the Lord's Test.

When Tufnell came on to his traditional applause from the crowd, Horne drove another four through his favourite extra cover, and at tea had scored 34 out of 40 for no wicket, with Bell having 4 to his credit. So far, he had played incontestably the most positive innings of the match, despite his lucky escapes.

A leg-glance to the boundary off Caddick soon got Horne moving again after tea, but Caddick came close to having him lbw in his next over with a ball that kept unreasonably low, but would just have missed leg stump. Undeterred, Caddick fired in a yorker which ripped through his defences and struck his leg stump, a fine delivery. Horne made 39 in 58 balls out of 46 for one, with Bell still on 5.

The scoring rate drooped until Fleming swung Tufnell for a leg-side boundary, and Bell also began to look more confident in picking up ones and twos. One of the day's best strokes came when Fleming drove Caddick back straight to the boundary with a short-arm jab off the back foot. Tufnell was most upset to have umpire Shepherd once again turn down a close lbw appeal, though, as Fleming padded up and played no stroke at a ball which pitched well outside off stump but turned in sharply. After the drinks break Fleming played a fine on-drive to the boundary off Tufnell, and then a two to long leg off Headley brought up the fifty partnership - the first for New Zealand's second wicket in their six Tests at Old Trafford. Then a classic off-drive by Fleming brought up the hundred for his country, to be followed next ball by another boundary, only straighter.

Such finally found umpire Tiffin more accommodating than Shepherd, winning an lbw decision against Fleming with a ball that drifted in from well outside the off stump and moved in with the arm to hit the batsman on the front pad; the only question was whe ther the ball was moving too much. Fleming had scored a fine positive 38 out of 110 for two, and Bell, on 28, was playing a good anchor role. Unlike England in a similar situation, New Zealand scorned the use of a night-watchman.

Such felt he should have had two wickets with successive balls when Astle tried to cut his first ball, which came back with the arm and hit the flap of his pad; however, it was outside the line of the off stump and went for four leg-byes. Such, as he mentioned after the day's play, enjoys playing at Old Trafford and often does well there. Astle lived rather dangerously, twice slashing wildly at wide balls from Headley just before the close, although he had an excuse for the first, a no-ball. But he did play a fine off-drive to the boundary to fi nish the over.

Tufnell returned for the final over of the day, but a short wide ball was immediately lashed square on the off side by Astle to the point boundary. Those were the last runs of the day, as New Zealand finished 71 runs behind England, but with eight wickets still in hand. Bell had batted his way throughout the innings to date, with his highest Test score of 31 out of 128 for two, while Astle had 10.

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Day3: New Zealand dominate

Residents of Manchester awoke to the sight of their all too familiar slate grey skies after a night of rain, and the threat of more to come. The gloomy sight was exactly the same at the Old Trafford ground but, perhaps against expectations, only 45 minu tes' play was lost, and this was recovered in 'extra time'.

This was always going to be a crucial day for both teams. New Zealand, condemned to bat last on a poor pitch, went into the day looking to accumulate just as many runs as possible and build a big lead. England on the other hand were desperate to break through and get back on level terms.

At 10.45 a minute's silence was observed in front of the pavilion in memory of the late Cyril Washbrook, presided over by Lord Sheppard. It was followed by the expected announcement that play would be postponed until the light improved.

Play finally started at 11.45 a.m., as the light improved to the point of being barely acceptable. But Astle was clearly seeing it well enough as he took two boundaries off Caddick's opening over, to midwicket and extra cover. Bell was more patient, ado pting the sheet-anchor role. He occasionally flirted with danger as he tried to sweep, at one stage lobbing an edge just over the keeper, but a pie chart of his eventual innings showed how he scored most of his runs on the leg side, especially behind squ are.

Astle finally hit out at Such, swinging him over the midwicket boundary for six. Bell moved cautiously towards his first Test fifty, which he finally reached by pulling Hick over midwicket for four, and then drove him through a misfielding extra cover for another boundary. New Zealand went in to lunch only 13 runs behind England on 186 for two, with Bell on 54 and Astle 43. The crucial morning session belonged entirely to them.

After the interval, a scampered single to square leg off Tufnell brought Astle his fifty, and soon afterwards New Zealand reached 200 and went into the lead, with only two wickets down. England's worst fears were being realised as New Zealand now had a very real chance of building an unassailable lead and winning the Test. The next landmark to fall was the century partnership, another first for New Zealand's third wicket on this ground.

Astle, exercising good judgement, continued to bat positively but not extravagantly, choosing the right ball to hit, including another from Tufnell outside off stump which he hit for six over the midwicket boundary. But accumulation was the watchword, and in the end Butcher brought himself on in a futile attempt to break through. With the bowlers making no impression, it was more a case of hoping the batsmen would somehow make a mistake, but New Zealand were in no mood for that.

Finally England took the second new ball, which Caddick and Headley used quite well. Astle had a slice of luck going for a hook, the resultant top edge just clearing Read's upstretched hands. He celebrated with a typically neat boundary through midwicket. Bell, though, was not so fortunate; the stand was finally broken when he tried to pull Headley and skyed a catch, to be caught by Atherton at mi d-on for 83. The total was now 263 for three, with Astle on 90 and the partnership worth 153. He had batted for 224 balls and played a fine innings for his team, deserving of a century. He received a fine ovation from the appreciative Old Trafford crow d.

Twose replaced Bell, and soon announced himself with a fine square cut for four off a slower ball from Headley. Astle advanced up the nineties with a couple of drives, one of them badly misfielded by mid-on, and escaped an lbw dismissal when he tried to pull a ball from Headley that kept low but was probably just missing leg stump. Eventually he timed an off-drive off Caddick beautifully and beat the field to reach his fifth Test century, and second against England. He took 174 balls and batted for 223 minutes, with 3 sixes and 8 fours. At the press conference he said that since his disappointing World Cup form he had concentrated on timing rather than power in his batting, and the results were evident.

The very next ball, though, with the pressure off, Astle attempted to pull Caddick for six, only to sky the ball towards fine leg where it was well taken by Such who dived full length to complete the catch. New Zealand were now 280 for four, a lead of 81 , with Twose on 6 joined at the crease by McMillan.

After a slow start, McMillan showed his usual aggressive approach by hitting two fours off a Caddick over, a pull and a drive through extra cover. Caddick was replaced by Tufnell, and McMillan turned a bad ball from the new bowler to fine leg for two to bring up the 300 and take his team's lead to more than 100.

Generally, though, the batsmen were content to play for tea, by which time the score was 302 for four, a lead of 103. Twose had 10 and McMillan 12. The tea interval was delayed until 4.10, in the hope that the extra hour might be used to make up for lost time. The light at tea was still quite acceptable but the future was dubious; in the event, it improved rather than deteriorated.

Play continued quietly after tea until Twose, hooking at Caddick, got a fortuitous top edge and snicked the ball over the keeper's head for six. Then it was back to steady consolidation until Twose padded up to a ball from Such that drifted in, bat tucked behind pad, to be given out lbw, apparently reasonably, by umpire Tiffin for 20. New Zealand were now 321 for five, with McMillan also on 20.

Parore was soon moving the score along by turning Caddick through midwicket for four, and then drove Such straight for another boundary. He then clipped Such hard to short midwicket, but with unerring accuracy straight at the midriff of Butcher. Butcher fumbled it, but managed to grasp it at the second attempt before it hit the ground. Parore made all ten runs scored while he was at the wicket, and New Zealand were 331 for six.

McMillan appeared becalmed but Cairns, after a few sighters, opened his shoulders and lofted Such high over long-on to get off the mark with a six. McMillan had a narrow escape when he snicked Caddick and the ball fell only just short of the keeper; he had now been stuck on 20 since before Twose was out. A rather strange period of batting now ensued, with New Zealand concentrating largely on consolidation, but with both McMillan and Cairns choosing their time to hit the spinners for six when they could; nine were to be struck during the day's play.

Cairns hit Such a mighty blow into the stands over long-on, moving to 12 in two scoring strokes. Then McMillan hit another two in the next two overs. Headley replaced Such, and beat McMillan all ends up with a superb delivery that cut back in and just mi ssed off stump. Another quiet period against the pace bowlers showed that the New Zealand aim was still to amass the largest possible total. Occasional fine boundaries, especially through the covers by both batsmen, ensued. McMillan's fifty came with a

well-played leg glance to the boundary off Headley, his first fifty against England.

An interesting incident occurred with the score on 397: Tufnell lost control of a ball with his arm just above halfway up in his delivery, and it lobbed high towards midwicket. McMillan leapt towards it and hit it to the midwicket boundary. However, ump ire Shepherd disallowed it after consultation with Tiffin, presumably about the point at which the ball had left the bowler's hand, and 'dead ball' was declared, a decision which was queried by those in the press box, including former long-serving Warwickshire bowler Jack Bannister.

In the final over of the day McMillan came close to giving a catch off pad and glove to the short leg fielder, off Such, but the ball fell just short. He then turned a ball to fine leg for a single to take New Zealand to a lead of exactly 200, and that was where it stayed: New Zealand 399 for six, with McMillan on 58 and Cairns 29. New Zealand's progress during the day probably met their highest hopes .

Fleming declared himself pleased with his team's performance during the day, as well he might. He had previously stated his aim to bat once only on this pitch, and this is now a real possibility. England selector Graham Gooch noted how the pitch had rol led out firm and flat, and hoped it would continue to be like that for the England second innings; he felt New Zealand had played well, but was pleased at how the England bowlers had stuck at their task.

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Day4: England fight for draw

At 10.30 the crowds were pouring into Old Trafford in their ones and twos, until there were at least 100 spectators in the ground. This, presumably, is the longsuffering English public's way of paying tribute to the heroics of their team which has succes sfully survived three days so far against the might of New Zealand. But England would need a lot more determination - or a lot more rain - if they were to salvage a draw from this match. In the event, they were to get some of both on the fourth day, and the crowd eventually swelled to about 5000.

More rain fell overnight, but not a great deal; the sky was still completely overcast but the light still acceptable for play. Fleming said the previous evening that he had no intention of declaring, and New Zealand would be hoping for at least 500 before unleashing their bowlers on England's hapless batsmen again. The pitch on the second and third days played more easily than had been expected, but would eventually start to crumble, although only the rough was to cause any real problems on the fourth day. England did save the 1998 Test at this ground, thanks in the end to the batting of Robert Croft and Angus Fraser - neither of whom were in the current team.

It took New Zealand five balls to bring up the 400 this morning, when McMillan turned a ball from Caddick backward of square leg for the required single. Tufnell opened from the Stretford end, only to have his third and fifth balls swept for six and four espectively by McMillan. Cairns also hit a boundary, through the covers, but must have had momentary worries in the next over, though, as he tried to loft Tufnell over the midwicket boundary and skyed it; there was a fielder in the vicinity hoping to take the catch, but the ball still cleared him and the boundary anyway.

After that Tufnell seemed to aim more than ever for the leg-side rough, and his plan succeeded the following over, as Cairns obligingly hoisted the ball right down Caddick's throat at long leg. He had made 41, and New Zealand were now 425 for seven. He faced 90 balls, having restrained himself gallantly at times, and hit 3 sixes and 2 fours. The partnership had added 94, and McMillan was still there on 72.

A long period of consolidation followed the demise of Cairns, as Nash settled in with McMillan, who eschewed all fireworks as he set his sights on a Test century. Runs came mainly in ones and twos in front of a small and apparently somnolent crowd, while the fifty partnership took about an hour to achieve. Then Nash finally opened his shoulders to Such, smashing a drive to mid-off where Caddick clung to a ball at about shoulder-height to his left, and Nash had fallen for 26. McMillan was still on 92, and New Zealand were 476 for eight, with two competent batsmen in Harris and Vettori still to come.

McMillan finally moved to 96 with a reverse-sweep for four off Such, but had a scare on the verge of his century. Reverse-sweeping again, the ball was apparently narrowly saved by Butcher, but McMillan decided to run through for four. Harris was unaware of his intentions, and McMillan in mid-pitch had to race back to the bowler's end and narrowly escaped being run out. This last development proved to be incidental, though, as the camera showed that Butcher had actually been in contact with ball and rop e at the same time, and McMillan was therefore credited with the four that brought him his century.

Almost immediately he lost Harris, bowled unluckily by one from Tufnell that pitched in the rough and spun in a long way to hit off stump, possibly including the inside edge. Harris made 3, and New Zealand were 487 for nine. Vettori came in at number eleven, having recently recorded a first-class century, and was dropped on 1 off a low chance to slip off Such. McMillan opted for continued accumulation even at this stage rather than big hitting, and at the interval New Zealand were still just short of 500, on 496 for nine. Despite his team's lack of haste in the last few overs before lunch, Fleming declared during the interval with a lead of 297.

A well-timed cover drive by Atherton off Nash gave England their first boundary, then Butcher off-drove Cairns for four in the fifth over, followed immediately by a thick edge to the third-man boundary. Generally, though, the scene was good but not dangerous bowling that forced the batsmen to be watchful and wait carefully for the right ball to hit.

Then the New Zealand bowlers began to sharpen up and bowl some fine deliveries, as Butcher soon discovered to his cost. A shortish ball from Nash kept a little low, but found Butcher back on his stumps playing down the wrong line, to be given out lbw by umpire Tiffin. However, the replay showed that the ball had pitched outside the line of leg stump, although it would probably have hit the stumps. Butcher made 9, and England were 19 for one, with Atherton also on 9.

Atherton fought back with three runs to leg off two balls from Cairns, but Stewart enjoyed a slice of luck when, playing back, the ball hit his gloves and bounced over the keeper's head for a four to fine leg. New Zealand had a confident appeal against A therton for a catch behind down the leg side, but umpire Shepherd rightly judged that the ball had flicked his body rather than his glove. Then Stewart collected another involuntary four off the edge trying to handle a flyer from Cairns. The batsmen wer e looking none too comfortable at this stage. Stewart decided to set the record straight with a lashed four off Cairns to the cover boundary. Atherton got in on the act with a good hook off the same bowler, only to have Bell at short leg involuntarily g et his helmet in the way and possibly save a four; the batsmen got two, Bell got a minor headache but still continued to field at short leg.

England's fifty came up in the 14th over, and it was clear that their approach this time was much more positive. A short wide ball from Cairns received a lashing through the covers from Stewart, and suddenly it was the bowlers who were struggling. Nash replaced Cairns and immediately had Stewart pull him to the midwicket boundary with a fierce crack of the bat. When Vettori came on to bowl, Stewart turned him to leg for a couple to bring up a positive fifty partnership between England's two most experienced players. Had the team batted in similar vein first time round, they would probably not have found themsel ves in their current mess.

The batting went through a quiet period as both sides fought for supremacy. Atherton played a memorable hook for four off a short ball from Nash, and then Stewart cut Vettori neatly to the boundary. An on-drive by Atherton brought another boundary, and almost for the first time in the match New Zealand appeared to be struggling to control the situation.

Harris is the man so often called on to restore order, although usually only in one-day matches. He did indeed prove hard to score from, until he put one outside leg, enabling Atherton to turn him to the fine-leg boundary and in the process notch up for himself 1000 Test runs against New Zealand. A tight over from Harris, conceding only a single, prevented England from reaching their hundred by tea; they were 98 for one, with Atherton on 35 and Stewart 43.

In the first over after tea, Atherton cut at Vettori, and Astle at slip missed a sharp chance, giving the batsman two runs off the rebound and bringing up England's hundred. The light began to deteriorate, and New Zealand were naturally wary of using the ir fastest bowlers in such a situation. Harris was perhaps not quite as accurate as usual, the occasional widish ball giving the batsmen the opportunity to break the shackles, such as the one Atherton was able to cut to the third-man boundary to take him into the forties.

Vettori caused some difficulty when coming round the wicket to bowl in the rough. He soon found his spot and made the ball spit, but the batsmen countered him by padding up or shouldering arms extravagantly. This helped to keep the scoring rate down, though, and both batsmen struggled through the forties. Atherton moved ahead of Stewart when he managed to cut Vettori for four to third man, but was not to reach his fifty.

On 48 he tried to sweep Vettori, and the ball hit his arm on its way through to Astle at slip. Umpire Shepherd ruled him out, and he walked back to the pavilion shaking his head gently all the way. The question was whether the ball also flicked his glov e on the way through, and the television replays suggested he was unlucky. Certainly the New Zealand appeal was not very convincing. England were now 118 for two, with Stewart on 47, and the pair had added 99 together.

In another way Atherton was certainly unlucky, as he had no sooner entered the pavilion than a light rain started, causing the players to flee the field. Had it arrived two minutes earlier, the fatal ball would not have been bowled. Although the rain so on stopped and the light appeared no worse than it had been when the players were on the field, play was not resumed, and it was eventually called off soon after 6.15 p.m.

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Day5: England saved by rain

The duller the weather, the brighter it was for England in this Test match. The renowned Manchester Liquid sunshine did not let the country down at the start of the final day's play. Sure enough, Mancunians awoke to steady rain from leaden skies; although it gradually eased off before the scheduled starting time, it left the light very gloomy, along no doubt with the New Zealanders, and the ground very wet - no comparisons to be made here with the England batsmen. At 11 a.m. it was announced that there would be a further inspection at 12 noon.

Certainly England had a realistic chance of escaping the defeat they had deserved now. They batted much better on the fourth day, enjoying good luck from the weather and bad luck from the fact that both wickets to fall appeared to be the result of unfortunate umpiring errors. In fact, they would doubtless have been pilloried if they did fail to salvage a draw.

At 1.35 an announcement was made that play would start at 2 p.m., and that a minimum of 70 overs would be bowled - weather permitting. The field was still quite wet and the sky cloud-covered, but further rain did not appear imminent.

At 2 p.m. Vettori trotted in to complete his over to Thorpe, who came in after the demise of Atherton the previous day but did not face a ball. Thorpe began very quietly, especially against Vettori pitching into the rough outside the left-hander's off stump, and took 27 balls to get off the mark. Stewart on the other hand reached his fifty off the first ball he faced. Harris uncharacteristically bowled just outside leg stump, and the batsman neatly leg-glanced him to the boundary. Later he flicked Cairns, when he replaced Harris, through midwicket for four, and in the next over struck him sweetly off the back foot for four and then three through extra cover. Thorpe looked much less elegant as he slogged Vettori to the boundary wide of mid-on.

Thorpe unleashed a superb drive to the extra-cover boundary off a wide ball from Vettori, taking his score to 20, and then slashed Harris for four to square cover. He was looking more confident but often, though, he preferred to use his pads, especially to balls aimed for the rough.

Stewart too was generally content to wait for the wide balls, and lashed one from Vettori to deep point for four. A light drizzle had started, though; only a few umbrellas went up around the ground, but it was enough for the batsmen, who were only too eager to go off when the umpires offered them the choice. England were at this stage 181 for two, with Stewart on 83 and Thorpe 25.

The drizzle intensified and endured, while the light worsened, and it soon became clear that further play was unlikely and that New Zealand had been denied the victory they deserved in a match they had dominated almost from the start. The match was officially abandoned at 4.50 p.m. England at least finished the match with some honour, but the fact remains that they were never in a position where they looked like winning.

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