Cricket: Fight at the finish

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The Independent Online
A Fighting rearguard innings by Michael Atherton has brought renewed hope to England's chances of saving this Test match and once again the England captain was back playing the defensive role he enjoys most, writes Derek Pringle in Christchurch .

Atherton found his most able ally of the entire innings in Robert Croft. Together they added 53 pleasingly struck runs until Croft was duped by a slow full toss from Nathan Astle, which instead of getting deposited over mid-wicket boundary, was skied to mid-on where Heath Davis held the catch.

Three overs later, England's position worsened again when Darren Gough was bowled by Daniel Vettori's arm ball for nought.

England began the day batting in the same way as they had on the previous one - without due care and attention - and just five balls had been bowled when Dominic Cork departed caught behind swishing at Davis.

Cork's current mental state is peverse and having no doubt been told to keep his skipper company for as long as possible, his reckless pull shot, before he really had time to gauge the pace of either pitch or bowler, was totally irresponsible. The Derbyshire all-rounder is not having a good tour. His bowling, so often crucial to England's chances in the recent past, now looks laboured and predictable, while his batting appears to be the exact opposite of that demanded by the match situation.

In Auckland and Wellington he blocked when England needed quick runs, and here he had a thrash when he had a licence to bat as long and as slowly as possible. His wicket, however, brought deserving reward to Davis, who was virtually laughed off the park on his last Test appearance such was his waywardness. He has worked hard since, not least in changing both his action and hairstyle, which both now look streamlined, if a little contrived.

England - First Innings

Overnight 145-5

*M A Atherton not out 92

D G Cork c Parore b Davis 16

R D B Croft c Davis b Astle 31

D Gough b Vettori 0

A R Caddick not out 4

Extras (lb4, nb 3) 7

Total (for 8, 80 overs) 210

Fall (contd): 6-145, 7-198, 8-199

To bat: P C R Tufnell

Bowling: Allott 16-3-64-3, Doull 15-2-41-0, Davis 18-2-50-1, Vettori 12-4-13-1, Cairns 8-5-12-1, Astle 11-2-26-2