New Zealand v England: Steven Finn helps secure first Test draw

 

First Test, Dunedin (day five):

England 167 & 421-6 drew with New Zealand 460-9 dec

Match scorecard

England batted through the final day with few alarms to secure a draw in the first Test against New Zealand.

Nightwatchman Steven Finn made a 203-ball 56 - his maiden first-class half-century - and Jonathan Trott 52 after Nick Compton fell for 117 in Dunedin.

England had converted a deficit of 59 at the start of play into a lead of 128 by the time they closed on 421-6.

The willing Neil Wagner finished with 3-141 in 43 overs - and match figures of 7-183 - on a lifeless surface.

Analysis

"Although England were denied the possible psychological opportunity of asking New Zealand to bat again, they deserved a draw for their second-innings fightback.

"England will be the favourites to win the second Test, but they will have to play better than they did in Dunedin."

The loss of two wickets in nine balls shortly after tea was the closest England came to suffering a scare.

But Ian Bell and Matt Prior eased any nerves in the tourists' dressing room with 26 and 23 not out respectively to persuade New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum to shake hands on a draw an hour before the scheduled close.

The tourists head to Wellington for the second Test, which starts at 21:30 GMT on Wednesday, buoyed by staving off a defeat that looked eminently possible when they trailed by 293 on first innings.

As impressive as their second innings was, the manner in which they capitulated for 167 on the second day will surely occupy the thoughts of the players and management on the trip north.

The result also means England have won the first Test of a tour only once in the last 14 attempts, against perennial strugglers Bangladesh in 2010.

That the series is still level owes much to Compton, fellow centurion Cook and the redoubtable Finn, whose four-and-three-quarter-hour vigil was the second longest innings by an England nightwatchman.

New Zealand v England Tests

1st Test, Dunedin: Match drawn

2nd Test, Wellington, 14-18 March

3rd Test, Auckland, 22-26 March

Having gone into the game with just 51 runs to his name from 17 Tests, he scored 76 in this match alone.

However, a pitch which offered the bowlers negligible assistance throughout was arguably the most important factor in preserving the status quo in a series which promises to be more keenly contested than the International Cricket Council rankings  suggest.

The early breakthrough that New Zealand sought took more than an hour to arrive after England began the day on 234-1.

Indeed, the wicket of Compton - having resumed on 102, he was lbw playing forward to one from Wagner that swung back in - was their solitary reward during an absorbing morning session.

Twice they missed tough chances offered by Finn, on two and 37, Dean Brownlie spilling a diving effort at third slip off Trent Boult in the first over of the day and McCullum reacting late at second slip when Kane Williamson also located the outside edge.

Test Match Special analysis

"England will have to look at the plusses rather than the minuses. The plusses are that the two or three batsmen who haven't played much cricket since Christmas did well. Compton got a hundred and Prior got a few runs, so that's looking bright. Cook, Trott, Root and Bell are all in good nick too. The only minus is Kevin Pietersen. He looks rusty, but Kevin is Kevin and he will just have to get into the nets."

Few would have expected those drops to be quite so costly, but Finn applied himself admirably.

He gave countless demonstrations of his plunging forward defensive, and went 49 balls - spread over an hour and a quarter - without scoring during one particularly stubborn period in the afternoon.

Trott played his own part, scoring relatively freely during a third-wicket stand of 90 that spanned almost 30 crucial overs.

Attempting to turn the ball to leg, he was superbly held one-handed by a leaping Wagner in his follow-through, and Kevin Pietersen never looked entirely comfortable before he was caught behind via inside edge playing tentatively away from his body.

When Finn was lbw on the sweep to Bruce Martin, and Tim Southee ran out Joe Root with a direct hit from cover point in the next over, the prospect of a New Zealand fourth-innings run-chase was not an impossibility.

But Bell and Prior, showing the calmness and good sense that England lacked in the first innings, removed any doubt over the outcome.