Cricket / Second Test: Kiwis steer clear of crowing

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TRADE was less than brisk yesterday morning for the man touting fan-cooled pith helmets at pounds 9.95 apiece outside St John's Wood tube station. However, judging by the tolerant response of the England manager, Keith Fletcher, to his side's protracted inability to dock the New Zealand tail, it would not have been a surprise to find one tucked away in the manager's locker.

Fletcher was coolness personified. 'I thought we bowled very well, well enough to bowl many a Test side out,' he contended. 'We went past the bat 40 or 50 times. We've been a bit unlucky in this match.'

Fletcher refused to countenance the suggestion that his bowlers might have offered too much width. 'It was frustrating,' he acknowledged. 'They can all bat. I suppose the only one who couldn't was the one (Michael Owens) who was not out at the end. We were disappointed with the last few wickets putting on so many, but it was a hot day, the outfield was quick and obviously the wicket is still good.'

Indeed, Fletcher maintained, by batting until Sunday evening England could yet prevail. For his part, Martin Crowe was adamant that the tourists were far from safe. 'At the rate they scored their first 60,' he said, 'those spells can come again. We could still have five sessions to bat, so you don't turn off.'

Not unnaturally, Crowe declared his century to have been a source of considerable personal pride. 'I was very delighted with the end result. It's been a long 12 months,' he said, referring to the knee injury that has troubled him over the past year. 'The knee was a bit sore for the last 20 minutes on the first day and I was pretty tired last night.'