• England v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 4th day

Swann leaves New Zealand on brink of defeat

The Report by George Dobell
May 27, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
New Zealand 174 and 158 for 6 (Taylor 70, Swann 4-61) require another 310 runs to beat England 354 and 249 for 3 (Cook 130, Trott 76)
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Graeme Swann was in-form on day three of the second Test © PA Photos
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England will nervously draw back the curtains in their hotel rooms on day five in Leeds. Having earned themselves a dominant position against New Zealand they will feel only rain can thwart them as they look to clinch a 2-0 series victory.

For that reason there was, perhaps, a perverse pleasure for New Zealand as England extended their second innings beyond lunch on the fourth day. While New Zealand could have few realistic hopes of surpassing England's target - they would have to set a new world record to do so and on a pitch offering turn and variable bounce to the bowlers - the tactic did perhaps present New Zealand with enhanced prospects of a draw.

With rain forecast to curtail the final day of the Test, New Zealand may not need to survive three full sessions on the final day. So, as England plundered their bowling on the fourth day, New Zealand could, at least, take comfort in the thought that every ball they were forced to remain out in the field was a ball less they were required to survive with the bat.

England's tactics have taken some criticism. Some say they should have enforced the follow-on, some say they should have batted with greater urgency on the third evening and some say that, with an eye on the weather forecast, they should have declared far earlier. But the fact is that had bad light not brought an early close on day four, they might have won this game in three days (the first day was lost to rain). For many years, England supporters would have been delighted with such a scenario. It perhaps speaks volumes for the progress they have made that more is now demanded.

Bearing in mind New Zealand had only scored 449 runs in the series for the loss of 30 wickets, it did seem an abundantly cautious tactic. No side has ever made more than 418 to win a Test in the fourth innings and only four teams have ever made more than 400 to win in the fourth innings. New Zealand's highest chase is 324, made against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1994.

If New Zealand are saved by the weather on day five, they will also owe thanks to Ross Taylor who produced a fine counterattacking innings to shore up his side just as it appeared they might suffer a familiar collapse and the game could end a day early. Demonstrating an application and technique that his team-mates would do well to emulate, Taylor cut and drove well and, by playing deep in his crease or using his reach to stretch a long way forward, negated Graeme Swann for much of the afternoon.

He had some nervous moments. Not only did he take a thumping blow to the arm off the hostile bowling of Steven Finn, but he was given out by umpire Steve Davis on 60, caught behind off Swann by one that went on with the arm. The decision was subsequently overturned on appeal with replays showing the bat had brushed only the pad.

Taylor apart, though, New Zealand struggled once again. Peter Fulton's miserable series - 36 runs at an average of 9.00 - ended when a delivery from Stuart Broad reared from just back of a good length, took the shoulder of the bat and looped to gully and, later, Dean Brownlie's stubborn innings was ended by a brute of a bouncer from Finn that followed the batsman and took his glove as he sought to protect his face. It was a delivery of which Curtly Ambrose would have been proud.

In between Finn's wickets, Swann struck twice. In his second over, Kane Williamson, moving right across his stumps in an attempt to get outside the line, was beaten by some sharp turn and given out leg before by Davis. Williamson called for a review but replays suggested the ball had hit him in line and would have just clipped the top of leg stump.

Hamish Rutherford impressed for a while. He drove a couple of sweetly-timed fours off Broad - first off front and then back foot - before punching one back past Finn and then flicking Swann through midwicket for another four. But in attempting to play one that slid on with the arm, Rutherford was caught at short-leg via an inside edge and his pad by the alert Joe Root.

Later, Swann had Martin Guptill edging one that did not turn, caught at slip off the outside edge, before Taylor's fine innings was ended by a full delivery that may well have deceived the batsman in the flight, beat his drive, turned and hit the stumps. Swann became the first spinner to take eight wickets in a Headingley Test since Derek Underwood did so in 1972.

Earlier England sentenced New Zealand to a morning of misery as they increased their lead well beyond 400. Upping the tempo noticeably after a ponderous end to the third day, England scored 133 runs in 29 overs (4.59 runs an over) in the session taking full toll of a New Zealand attack lacking the injured Trent Boult.

Alastair Cook, who resumed on his overnight score of 88, soon completed his 25th Test century and seventh in 11 Tests as captain. Fluent on the drive, quick to cut and merciless off his legs, Cook added 134 in 41 overs with Jonathan Trott. No England player has scored more Test centuries than Cook and only Graham Gooch, with 11 in 34 Tests, Peter May, with 10 in 41, Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan, with nine each in 50 and 51 Tests respectively, and Mike Atherton, with eight in 54, have scored more as captain. Trott's acceleration was more noticeable. It had taken him 69 deliveries to score his first 11 runs on day three, but on the fourth morning he allowed himself to take more risks and was dropped on 40 when reverse-sweeping Kane Williamson. Later he whipped Tim Southee through midwicket and reverse-swept another four off the part-time spin of Martin Guptill. In all Trott scored 65 runs from 93 balls in the session but fell second ball after lunch chasing a wide one.

Cook eventually fell as he attempted to hit the off-spin of Williamson over the top, while Ian Bell fell in similarly selfless fashion as he mis-hit a slog-sweep. But it hardly mattered. Joe Root produced an outrageous reverse-sweep off the pace of Wagner that flew to the boundary and hit three fours in his first 13 balls before falling in the race to set-up the declaration.

There was further good news for England on day four as Kevin Pietersen returned to the nets, beginning his comeback from a knee injury.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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