Prior leads England fightback
Matt Prior dominated a hard-working century stand with Joe Root as England sought a much-needed recovery on day three of the final Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.
Prior (73) and Root helped the tourists from a perilous mid-morning 72 for five to 176 for six by teatime.
England's ambition was surely nonetheless limited to the delivery of a third successive stalemate and 0-0 series outcome, after New Zealand had piled up 443 all out on the first two days.
Prior had two moments of significant fortune, when a direct hit from substitute fielder Doug Bracewell at mid-on would have run him out on nine and then dropped low down at second slip by Dean Brownlie aiming a drive at Tim Southee 15 runs later. It was after that escape, in early afternoon, that England's wicketkeeper reverted to type with a more attacking approach.
Root remained content to block and tire the Kiwis all the way to and beyond the second new ball - a moment Prior was not around to witness, having squirted a drive to point off Neil Wagner in the previous over to end his 130-ball stay.
England had got themselves into trouble with an inability to combat conventional swing. Southee won lbw verdicts against both overnight batsmen, Nick Compton and Ian Bell - and as the ball continued to deviate in the air, unlike for England's bowlers, Trent Boult (three for 48) also saw off Jonny Bairstow.
After a near strokeless innings on Saturday night, Compton began having made 12 runs from exactly 12 overs of strike. He mustered one more run, and lasted another five balls, before Southee overturned umpire Paul Reiffel's initial not-out decision on DRS.
Southee had not struck for 89 overs in this series since he had Compton playing onto his stumps at the start of the first Test in Dunedin. But he beat his forward-defence again here, and simulation demonstrated the ball would have clattered straight into leg and middle stumps. Bell decided against a second review, after consultation with non-striker Root, when Southee got another one to nip in and beat the batsman stuck on the crease.
Bairstow, like Compton, was given not out - this time by Rod Tucker - pushing forward. But Boult was already celebrating before even confirming his DRS intention, and it transpired Bairstow was plumb to another inswinger as England lost their third wicket for the addition of 11 runs.
Prior and Root therefore had to dig in for an hour to lunch - a scenario which suited the young Yorkshireman's instincts better than his partner's. Both fulfilled the brief, though, before Prior clicked into 'boundary' mode in the second session. Root did nothing of the sort. It took him 126 balls, in fact, to double his number of fours to two - with a neat deflection to fine leg off Bruce Martin - but, as long as he remained in situ, England still had a chance of passing the follow-on target.