Cricket: Centurion Thorpe at the heart of the fray

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Graham Thorpe is a quiet, undemonstrative man, but there was no denying the outpouring of emotion at Eden Park yesterday, as he scored his third Test century. Removing his helmet, he repeatedly aimed fresh air punches towards his team-mates, who applauded him to a man.

Thorpe is the ultimate team man and he probably felt he owed his colleagues a score, not least for the farcical nature of the run-out between himself and John Crawley on the previous afternoon.

His 119, while more studied than his usual knocks, contained 17 fours and took just over five and a half hours to complete. "I felt I had to be patient and occupy the crease," he said.

If it is centuries that measure the true worth of a Test batsman, there is little doubt that Thorpe is an underperformer. But Thorpe's value would perhaps be better gauged by how often he seizes the initiative for his team.

There is little doubt that since the extravagant promise of a debut hundred against Australia, Thorpe has been instrumental in setting up winning positions for England. The team may not have always gone on to win, but Thorpe's urgent sixties and seventies have, as often as not, at least given the bowlers enough time to plot victory, rather than merely hope for it.

Before yesterday he had not had a happy winter, and there were murmurs that after a similar period of disillusionment in South Africa last year he was unhappy at being abroad for long periods. In Zimbabwe, it was a situation compounded by the recent birth of his son and the sad news of the death of his Surrey team-mate Graham Kersey in a car crash over Christmas.

The fourth day ended well for England, with three New Zealand wickets falling before the close. The extra pressure was provided after Thorpe and Dominic Cork had combined to set up England's big total with a seventh- wicket stand worth 114. However, it was a stand ended by one of the more bizarre Test dismissals when Thorpe kicked over his stumps after overbalancing while trying to play a ball from Chris Cairns.

Even more surprising, perhaps, was that Cork's ensuing half-century was only his second in Test cricket, the first having come against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 1995.

On that occasion, Cork played magnificently and although there were glimpses of that here, there was a perplexing period either side of lunch - soon after England had taken the lead - when he took an hour to score a single run. It took a brilliant diving catch by Bryan Young to dismiss Cork after he had swatted Danny Morrison's long-hop high over the fielder's head at midwicket.

At that point, the England tail took the opportunity to outperform its usual rabbit rating as Phil Tufnell and Alan Mullally added 43 for the last wicket, a feat that suggested the pitch at least had surpassed all expectations of its durability.

However, it is remarkable how a few widening cracks can help persuade a bowler to try his luck, which is broadly what it took for Cork to dismiss Young after Nasser Hussain, hovering at fine gully, had parried the initial catch offered by a stinging drive.

With Mullally rested after another wayward opening spell, it was Darren Gough's turn to run uphill into the wind, an encumbrance that appeared to help his inswinging yorker, which for the second time in the match caused Blair Pocock to be leg before.

But if getting both openers was a bonus, the dismissal of Stephen Fleming was a huge blow to the home side. It also gave Tufnell his first wicket of the match.

Fourth day scoreboard

England won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings 390 (B A Pocock 70, S P Fleming 129, C L Cairns 67; D Gough 4-91).

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 366 for 6)

N V Knight lbw b Doull 5

(31 min, 28 balls, 1 four)

*M A Atherton c and b Patel 83

(272 min, 213 balls, 11 fours)

A J Stewart c and b Doull 173

(363 min, 277 balls, 23 fours, 1 six)

N Hussain c Fleming b Patel 8

(25 min, 22 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe hit wkt b Cairns 119

(339 min, 245 balls, 17 fours)

J P Crawley run out (Doull-Germon) 14

(61 min, 43 balls, 1 four)

C White lbw b Vaughan 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

D G Cork c Young b Morrison 59

(236 min, 192 balls, 6 fours, 1 six)

D Gough c Germon b Morrison 2

(28 min, 19 balls)

A D Mullally c Germon b Morrison 21

(84 min, 40 balls, 2 fours)

P C R Tufnell not out 19

(55 min, 49 balls, 2 fours)

Extras (b2 lb12 w2 nb2) 18

Total (753 min, 187.4 overs) 521

Fall: 1-18 (Knight) 2-200 (Atherton) 3-222 (Hussain) 4-304 (Stewart) 5-339 (Crawley) 6-339 (White) 7-453 (Thorpe) 8-471 (Gough) 9-478 (Cork) 10-521 (Mullally).

Bowling: Morrison 24.4-4-104-3 (nb3) (4-1-10-0, 4-1-17-0, 5-2-15-0, 3- 0-23-0, 3-0-22-0, 5-0-15-2, 0.4-0-2-1); Doull 39-10-118-2 (w1) (8-4-15- 1, 4-0-21-0, 7-2-14-0, 3-1-14-0, 8-1-25-1, 6-2-14-0, 3-0-15-0); Cairns 30-3-103-1 (w1) (6-0-36-0, 4-1-14-0, 7-1-16-0, 3-0-16-0, 8 -1-15-1, 2- 0-6-0); Astle 14-3-33-0 (4-1-8-0, 5-1-11-0, 2-1-2-0, 3-0-12-0); Vaughan 36-10-57-1 (6-1-14-0, 5-0-15-0, 2-1-2-0, 6-2-10-1, 6-2-4-0, 8-3-8-0, 3- 1-4-0); Patel 44-10-92-2 (21-6-31-2, 8-1-33-0, 4-1-13-0, 7-1-11-0, 4-1- 4-0).

Progress: Fourth day: 400: 550 min, 138.5 overs. Lunch: 448-6 (Thorpe 117, Cork 38) 157 overs. 450: 631 min, 159.1 overs. 500: 727 min, 182 overs. New ball taken at 500-9 after 182 overs. Innings closed 3.22pm.

NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings

B A Pocock lbw b Gough 20

(74 min, 62 balls, 2 fours)

B A Young c Hussain b Cork 3

(35 min, 24 balls)

A C Parore not out 16

(84 min, 52 balls, 2 fours)

S P Fleming c Crawley b Tufnell 9

(35 min, 31 balls)

*L K Germon not out 4

(8 min, 9 balls, 1 four)

Extras (nb4) 4

Total (for 3, 121 min, 29 overs) 56

Fall: 1-17 (Young) 2-28 (Pocock) 3-47 (Fleming).

Bowling: Cork 7-3-17-1; Mullally 7-4-5-0; White 3-1-6-0 (nb1); Gough 7-1-16-1 (nb2); Tufnell 5-1-12-1 (nb1) (one spell each).

Progress: Fourth day: 50: 117 min, 27.3 overs.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and R S Dunne.

TV Replay Umpire: D B Cowie.

Match Referee: P J P Burge.