England looking to battle back
England's batsmen began their struggle for a foothold in the final Test after Steven Finn led the tourists' fightback with the ball on day two at Eden Park.
Finn (six for 125) was eventually rewarded for his persistence as New Zealand were bowled out for 443 shortly after tea. Then as the Kiwi attack found conspicuously more swing than England managed for five sessions, Nick Compton dug in on the way to 50 for two at stumps after Alastair Cook had gone cheaply.
England responded with nine wickets for 193, courtesy principally of Matt Prior's five catches behind the wicket and Finn, having taken one for 250 after Cook won the toss on Friday. Peter Fulton's 136 and his second-wicket stand of 181 with Kane Williamson (91) nonetheless helped to give New Zealand a dominant total, in which the top nine all contributed in at least double-figures.
Finn was somewhat flattered by his joint career-best figures, thanks to a late burst of four for 13 in 14 balls to close the home innings soon after tea. There were also two wickets for James Anderson, one with a very good ball and the other with a long hop, to take him level with Derek Underwood on the all-time list of England's most successful Test bowlers and within three of 300.
Anderson expertly found Williamson's outside edge in backward-defence as the number three went caught behind after a 199-ball stay, in which he had hit 15 fours and looked a class act throughout. Stoic opener Fulton stayed put, mustered just five runs out of 24 in the first hour's play on another sunny day.
He almost ground to a halt, having passed his maiden hundred on Friday night, as England starved him of scoring opportunities through his favoured leg-side. Fulton took 100 balls to score 28 runs, after reaching three figures, including 23 spent stuck on 124. Ross Taylor tried to energise proceedings but followed a six and four over midwicket in one Monty Panesar over by chipping a return catch tamely back at the slow left-armer.
When Fulton's seven-and-a-half-hour innings then ended with a spectacular catch behind down the leg-side by Prior off Finn, England sensed an opportunity. But they were to be disappointed before lunch when danger man Brendon McCullum successfully overturned Paul Reiffel's decision, to survive both caught behind and lbw when Finn thought he had him one way or the other for a second-ball duck.
McCullum would fall short of a seventh half-century in eight innings against England this winter, but still shared an important stand of 68 with Dean Brownlie until he became part-time medium-pacer Jonathan Trott's fourth Test victim - edging some full-length swing behind, where Prior took another neat catch standing up. Anderson had Brownlie cutting a poor delivery low to backward-point to go joint fourth in England's list of Test wicket-takers. Tim Southee launched some effective hitting, including successive pulled sixes off Stuart Broad, either side of tea - before Finn ran through the tail.
Prior continued to be a very able assistant, with two more catches - Southee edging an attempted upper-cut and BJ Watling down the leg-side - and Finn ended the innings on a hat-trick after number 11 Trent Boult carved a catch to point first ball. Unfortunately for England, the rush of wickets extended as far as Cook in the third over of their reply when he got a thin edge behind down the leg-side off Boult. That put the onus on Trott and Compton to follow up the double-century stand they shared at Wellington last week, after Cook had also departed early there.
Their reprise lasted only until Trott uncharacteristically lost his balance as left-armer Boult again found some inswing and had him lbw, England losing a DRS 'life' into the bargain. Compton was then close to strokeless, more so even than Fulton this morning, as he and Ian Bell engaged in earnest and successful damage limitation.