Cricket: Habib century steers tourists out of danger

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The Independent Online
New Zealand A 261 & 278-9 dec England A 123 & 331-6 Match drawn

A CENTURY from Aftab Habib and major contributions from the captain, Mark Alleyne, and Vikram Solanki helped England A maintain their long unbeaten record easily by saving the first Test against New Zealand A at Christchurch.

The tourists batted with great resolve throughout the final day to preserve their 34-match unbeaten run. When England's big three were in full flow there were even times when a most unlikely win began to look just about conceivable - but in the end they finished on 331 for 6, comfortably adrift of what had always seemed an unattainable 417 for victory.

Having lost Ian Ward overnight, England were potentially in big trouble when Marcus Trescothick fell in the fourth over of the day, and it looked even worse when David Sales, who played some attractive strokes in company with Solanki, departed before lunch when he was caught at mid-on for 22.

But Solanki (97) found a stable partner in Alleyne (96), and the Worcestershire all-rounder was soon at his fluent best. He reached 50 from 61 balls with eight fours and seemed destined to reach his hundred until he was bowled by a slower ball from Warren Wisneski. He had faced 143 balls and hit 16 fours in another innings of the highest class.

Solanki's departure left much responsibility on Alleyne and Habib (101no) and the fifth-wicket pair did not spurn run-scoring chances. Defensive at first, the pair then began to assert themselves with such vigour that runs flowed freely and forced the hosts on the defensive. England had batted through to a position where safety was almost assured when the captains and umpires convened to discuss an early finish. They agreed to stay in the middle for two more overs to allow the batsmen the chance to complete a century.

However, Alleyne, who faced 253 balls and hit 10 fours in his 96, was dismissed forcing to backward point having batted for more than five-and- a-half hours.

Rob Turner was caught and bowled by Scott Styris in the same over, and Habib farmed the strike and had reached 97 when the last over began.

Franks blocked the first ball and took a single from the next, and Habib lifted the fourth delivery over mid-on for his 12th four to complete the hundred his match-saving effort richly deserved.

Final day of five; England A won toss

NEW ZEALAND A - First Innings 261 (M H Richardson 74, M S Sinclair 62, R J Kirtley 5-54).

ENGLAND A - First Innings 123 (A J Penn 4-21).

NEW ZEALAND A - First Innings 278 for 9 dec (M H Richardson 67 no, L Vincent 64, M D Bell 58, A Sheriyar 6-70).

ENGLAND A - Second Innings

I J Ward b Drum 0

M E Trescothick c Hopkins b Wisneski 6

V S Solanki b Wisneski 97

D J Sales c Drum b Penn 22

*M W Alleyne c Sinclair b Styris 96

A Habib not out 101

R J Turner c & b Styris 0

P J Franks not out 1

Extras (b1, lb5, nb2) 8

Total (for 6, 107.4 overs) 331

Fall: 1-0, 2-19, 3-70, 4-164, 5-317, 6-317.

Did not bat: C P Schofield, R J Kirtley, A Sheriyar.

Bowling: Drum 18-6-59-1; Wisneski 23-3-82-2; Wiseman 32.4-9-75-0; Styris 15-5-40-2; Penn 17-3-63-1; Richardson 2-0-6-0.

Umpires: B F Bowden and R D Anderson.