When New Zealand women declared yesterday evening in the third Test they thought that they were left with four overs to bowl at England. My rudimentary mathematics and Russian watch agreed with them, but not the umpires and timekeepers.
Play on the third day was over, and today, the final day, the home side must make 311 or New Zealand take 10 wickets to decide a series which has so far been stalemated. The weather must not take entire blame for the two tame draws which preceded this final Test. The fact that neither side batted for a second time in either game is also due to timid batting.
Women's cricket is denied one of the game's most potent weapons - fast bowling - on anatomical grounds, and the Guildford club has rolled out a batsman's paradise. And yet both sides have found it hard to pierce the field, to dare to take on the bowling.
Having achieved their minimum target on Saturday - passing the follow- on mark - England batted on for 75 minutes and 29 runs yesterday, leaving themselves 91 runs adrift. New Zealand, surely, would stretch their advantage by cracking ahead, leaving England with a mountain of runs and an hour's bowling to face in the evening.
Thanks largely to the artful leg spin of Kathryn Leng, the script was briefly rewritten, and in the 24th over the visitors had stumbled to 37 for 3. Their recovery was almost wholly due to an assured century by Emily Drumm, who holds her country's batting record with 161 not out against Australia.
Her speciality is the late cut, a delicate dab that became increasingly productive as England fell on the defensive, and in partnership with Sarah Illingworth, the skipper, and then with the most experienced of all women players, Debbie Hockley, she took New Zealand to their declaration, if somewhat later than had been intended. It was only as the determined end of the innings approached that the first signs of improvised shots, even a vulgar slog or two, appeared in this otherwise straight-batted contest.
There is no provision for a penalty shoot-out to separate these two deadlocked sides come this evening. On a pitch holding firm, one side or the other must take the game by the scruff of the neck to end the series on a positive note.