Cricket: Cairns puts England on the back foot

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New Zealand 346 & 186 England 228

This morning's session was the most important of the match and probably the series, for it determined whether England would be going for victory or playing for the draw. In the end it was Chris Cairns, missed twice in his invaluable innings of 52, who probably swung the match New Zealand's way, and England were left needing 305 runs in five sessions for victory.

England's highest score to win in the fourth innings is 332, which they scored in the third Test against Australia at Melbourne in 1928-29 - the only time they have scored more than 300 to win in the last innings of a match.

After their excellent performance in the field the previous afternoon, England chose the most important passage of play to bowl and field badly. Once again, they did not seem to want to initiate proceedings, and Atherton was perhaps agiain guilty of sitting back and waiting for his opponents to self-destruct. It did not happen and nothing showed New Zealand's spirit better than the batting of Matthew Horne.

Horne, his broken hand presumably numbed by a pain killing injection - a luxury he would not have had the previous evening due to his spontaneous decision to bat - never looked comfortable and although he only lasted another 15 balls, his stomach for the fight clearly inspired those who followed, and Daniel Vettori, in only his second Test played a vital role in his support of Cairns.

Pain, however, can confuse a man, and when Horne edged Andy Caddick's lifter to Alec Stewart, it was his good hand that he ended up withdrawing from the bat.

The catch brought Stewart's haul of dismissals in this three match series to 15, beating the old record against New Zealand held by Bob Taylor. However, such was the finely balanced nature of this match, that he would surely have traded in his achievement for the stumping he missed 40 minutes later, as Cairns gave Croft the charge.

It was a crucial moment and one of those stumpings that the keeper does not see until very late - the batsman having played over the top of the ball rather than down the wrong line.

Cairns, who was on 31 at the time, probably saw it as a sign because he suddenly began to play shots, striking Croft for a six and a four in successive balls to reach his fifty.

Moments later he was dropped by Dominic Cork at mid-off, a miss that was redeemed in the next over when Nick Knight held a fine catch off Phil Tufnell inches inside the deep extra-cover rope. By then, however, the serious damage had been done and England had once again allowed the tail to make life difficult for them.

England won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First innings 347 (S P Fleming 62, A C Parore 59, C L Cairns 57; R D B Croft 5-95).

ENGLAND - First innings 228 (M A Atherton 94no)

NEW ZEALAND - Second innings

(Overnight: 95 for 6)

C L Cairns c Knight b Tufnell 52

M J Horne c Stewart b Caddick 13

D L Vettori not out 29

H T Davis b Gough 1

G I Allott c Stewart b Gough 1

Extras (lb8, nb4) 12

Total (88.3 overs) 186

Fall cont: 7-107 (Horne), 8-178 (Cairns), 9-184 (Davis), 10-186 (Allott).

Bowling: Cork 6-2-5-1; Caddick 10-1-25-1; Croft 31-13-348-2; Gough 13.3- 5-48-3; Tufnell 28-9-58-3.

Umpires: D B Hair (Aus) and R S Dunne.

TV replay umpire: D M Quested.

Match referee: P J P Burge.