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Weather and pitch frustrate England
12:12pm Monday 18th March 2013 in Sport
ENGLAND’S bowlers were collectively short of their best as bad weather and a bland pitch conspired against them at the Basin Reserve.
James Anderson’s dismissal of Peter Fulton was the tourists’ only success as rain limited day four of the second Test to 34 overs and, with more downpours forecast, made a second successive stalemate against New Zealand the likeliest outcome.
Kane Williamson (55no) and Ross Taylor doubled the total in an unbroken stand of 81 after Anderson had Fulton fencing an edge to slip in the fifth over.
The remnants of Cyclone Sandra then arrived on cue at lunchtime, wiped out the afternoon and permitted only another five overs, during which the hosts advanced to 162 for two to trail by only 49 after following on.
Anderson’s body language was that of someone battling physical issues – it has been suggested he has both a stiff back and sore heel – but bowling coach David Saker insisted England’s lynchpin seamer is injury-free.
Stuart Broad remained the most obvious threat, after his first-innings six for 51, but went wicketless, as did his fellow pace bowler Steven Finn.
Although Monty Panesar found some turn, he could not add to his success the previous evening when he had Hamish Rutherford caught at leg-slip.
It all had Saker ruing both a steadfastly unresponsive surface and an attack which was not quite firing on full cylinders.
‘‘Trying to get batsmen out on this, you need all three of your quicks working really well together,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve done that in patches, but we know when we put it together as a three-quicksand- a-spinner combination we are pretty hard to handle, no matter what surface we get.’’ Broad was the pick of the crop again, back to his best since the pain abated in his left heel after forcing him home early from England’s Test tour of India in December.
‘‘He obviously struggled in India with an injury, and it is testament to the medical staff to get him back,’’ added Saker.
‘‘He had an injury that could have lasted a lot longer than it did.
‘‘He’s come back, looked good yesterday ... and his pace has been really encouraging.’’ Neither Finn nor Anderson has been as impressive here.
‘‘Injury-wise, he’s fine,’’ Saker said of Anderson. ‘‘I think he’s just struggling for a little bit of rhythm.
‘‘The high standards he sets, he’d probably say he’s below his best at the moment.
‘‘But we know he’s one spell or two spells away from probably changing a game.’’ The bowling coach believes the same is true of Finn, while Panesar appeared to be hampered as much as anyone by the slow pitch.
‘‘I think Monty at times has looked really dangerous, over the wicket, and around,’’ said Saker.
‘‘It’s not one of those wickets that really zips and turns that he was used to in India.”
Both in Wellington and Dunedin, where England drew the first Test last week, slow-motion cricket has prevailed – to the dismay of Saker.
‘‘Just for a spectacle of Test cricket, this isn’t the greatest way,’’ he said.
‘‘Anyone watching the game wants to see the ball bounce through and sometimes it’s a bit frustrating for the spectators.”