Cricket: Ashes fear for Knight

New Zealand 153 England 144 New Zealand win by nine runs
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The Independent Online
Nick Knight faces a battle to be fit for the start of the Ashes after the first ball of England's innings yesterday broke his left index finger in three places.

The injury came midway through an altogether forgettable day for England, who lost the weather-delayed fourth one-day international against New Zealand by nine runs. Both sides put on undisciplined batting displays on a slow, dampish Eden Park pitch, England being dismissed for 144 in reply to New Zealand's 153 with nine balls left.

Knight, his finger smashed around the knuckle from a delivery by Heath Davis, re-emerged to join the last man, Chris Silverwood, with 21 required. Silverwood hit a few defiant blows, but was caught on the boundary, while Knight needed to face only one ball as he batted one-handed with his injured finger in a splint.

Knight must now hope that an operation to reset and pin the shattered bone is successful. If it does not heal properly, there is a danger of complications which could keep Knight out for longer than the two months predicted by the England physiotherapist, Wayne Morton.

"The bone will need very accurate placement if it is to mend properly," Morton said. "Nick will stay here in Auckland to have the operation while the rest of us go to Wellington for the final one-dayer. He has a chance of starting the domestic season, but it will be a long tough battle ahead.

"Nick has broken that finger before, but not in this area. He is in a fair bit of discomfort and the damage is right into the knuckle joint. He has to have the repair work done here because it would not wait until we get back to England."

Mike Atherton praised Knight's courage in demanding to bat in a bid to help his side clinch the five-match series. But the England captain was unhappy with his side's batting performance, a display which means that New Zealand can still draw the series if they are victorious again, in Wellington tomorrow.

"We lost a lot of wickets early on which cost us the match," Atherton said. "The pitch was slow and a bit damp, but it was perfectly playable and not as bad as the two total suggests. The tour is winding down at a bit at the moment, but we have one more match left to raise ourselves."

Atherton was keen to emphasise that England's attention is still focused on the cricket rather than the journey home: "We've had a long winter and it will be nice to get home, but before we go we are keen to wrap up the series. New Zealand are not a bad one-day side and if you put in a below-par performance then you are liable to be beaten."

The captain himself was as guilty as any Englishman of under-performing with the bat - he, Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain and top scorer Alec Stewart all getting out to sloppy strokes. But the injury to Knight was decisive, as the New Zealand captain, Lee Germon, affirmed.

"To win the match we had to take early wickets, and the fact that Knight was hurt and had to go off from that first ball of the innings did help us a lot," Germon said. "This victory comes as an enormous relief. We have kept the series alive and that's important for us."

Knight got a single for his pains, as Davis's delivery reared up to hit him on the glove. Morton immediately led him off the field after inspecting the damage.

Soon, England were 41 for 4 as Davis and Geoff Allott made inroads with the new ball. But Stewart and Craig looked to have pulled the innings around with their 50-run stand until Stewart was bowled by Nathan Astle's medium pace as he pulled across the line. And when White, who was on 32, lifted Chris Harris's slow-medium looper to extra cover, it was all left to Robert Croft.

The Welshman, outstanding again with the ball in what became a 43-over contest following early-morning rain, swung Astle for six and was on 20 when he was run out going for a second after Darren Gough had driven Gavin Larsen to long-on. Larsen then wrapped up the innings to finish with 3 for 20 and share the man of the match award with Astle.

Dominic Cork, who missed yesterday's match with a hamstring strain, is doubtful for the series decider in Wellington.

EDEN PARK SCOREBOARD

England won toss

NEW ZEALAND

B A Young c and b White 16

(46 min, 34 balls, 2 fours)

N J Astle c Stewart b Irani 51

(110 min, 68 balls, 5 fours)

*L K Germon lbw b Gough 0

(3 min, 2 balls)

S P Fleming c Hussain b Croft 37

(72 min, 55 balls, 2 fours)

C L Cairns run out (Silverwood-Croft TV replay) 2

(6 min, 6 balls)

A C Parore c Croft b Caddick 13

(33 min, 27 balls)

C Z Harris c Hussain b Croft 0

(3 min, 4 balls)

G R Larsen run out (Hussain TV replay) 2

(11 min, 6 balls)

S B Doull not out 13

(33 min, 16 balls)

H T Davis b Caddick 0

(7 min, 8 balls)

G I Allott b Gough 3

(12 min, 12 balls)

Extras (b2 lb3 w11) 16

Total (172 min, 39.5 overs) 153

Fall: 1-53 (Young) 2-54 (Germon) 3-113 (Astle) 4-116 (Cairns) 5-120 (Fleming) 6-120 (Harris) 7-129 (Larsen) 8-136 (Parore) 9-141 (Davis) 10-153 (Allott).

Bowling: Caddick 8-1-29-2 (w2) (4-0-21-0, 4-1-8-2); Silverwood 5-0-20- 0 (w5) (3-0-15-0, 2-0-5-0); Gough 5.5-0-29-2 (w2) (5-0-24-1, 0.5-0-5-1); White 5-0-21-1 (3-0-9-1, 2-0-12-0); Croft 9-1-26-2 (w1), Irani 7-0-23- 1 (w1) (one spell each).

Progress: Rain reduced the match to 43 overs a side. Start delayed until 12.10pm. 50: 44 min, 62 balls. 100: 93 min, 127 balls. 150: 171 min, 234 balls.

Astle's 50: 104 min, 63 balls, 5 fours.

ENGLAND

N V Knight not out 1

(13 min, 2 balls)

*M A Atherton c Harris b Allott 9

(17 min, 11 balls, 2 fours)

A J Stewart b Astle 42

(117 min, 68 balls, 5 fours)

G P Thorpe c Parore b Allott 7

(11 min, 12 balls)

N Hussain b Davis 3

(14 min, 12 balls)

R C Irani c Fleming b Davis 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

C White c Parore b Harris 32

(100 min, 89 balls, 2 fours)

R D B Croft run out (Astle-Larsen TV replay) 20

(38 min, 33 balls, 1 six)

D Gough c and b Larsen 5

(14 min, 9 balls)

A R Caddick b Larsen 0

(4 min, 1 ball)

C E W Silverwood c Allott b Larsen 12

(11 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb6 w7) 13

Total (174 min, 41.3 overs) 144

Fall: 1-22 (Atherton) 2-32 (Thorpe) 3-41 (Hussain) 4-41 (Irani) 5-91 (Stewart) 6-113 (White) 7-132 (Croft) 8-132 (Gough) 9-133 (Caddick) 10- 144 (Silverwood).

Bowling: Davis 6-0-32-2 (w6); Allott 5-1-21-2 (w1) (one spell each); Doull 6-1-15-0 (5-1-8-0, 1-0-7-0); Larsen 8.3-0-20-3 (7-0-14-0, 1.3-0- 6-3); Harris 9-0-26-1, Astle 7-1-24-1 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 59 min, 64 balls. 100: 131 min, 182 balls.

Knight retired hurt 1 at 1-0 after 0.1 over. He returned at 133-9 after 39.5 overs.

NEW ZEALAND WON BY NINE RUNS.

Umpires: D B Cowie and R S Dunne.

TV Replay Umpire: B F Bowden.

Match Referee: P J P Burge.

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