Angus Fraser: Bowling star injured in kickabout
England's chances of winning the second Test in Wellington were dealt a potentially damaging blow this morning when James Anderson twisted his left ankle after the close of play on the third day. Anderson, England's bowling star of the New Zealand first innings, was involved in a warm-down mess around game of football on the outfield when he went over on his ankle.
The fast bowler left the Basin Reserve 30 minutes after his teammates on crutches and with his ankle heavily strapped. He was accompanied and helped in to a taxi by England's medical team. Anderson is hopeful that he will be able to bowl in New Zealand's second innings but much will depend on how the injury responds to intensive treatment overnight.
Losing Anderson would be a desperate blow for England and the bowler himself. He bowled beautifully in New Zealand's first innings, taking 5-73, and was hoping that the axing of Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison would allow him to have an extended run in the Test side.
Anderson's injury was the only real low point of another good day for Michael Vaughan's side. In testing conditions Vaughan and his batsmen battled hard reaching 277-9 by the close of play, a total that gives England an imposing lead of 421. It is an advantage, Anderson permitting, which should give them an excellent chance of winning their first overseas Test in almost two years. Victory would draw England level at 1-1 in the three Test series with one Test to play in Napier.
England's batting was workman-like rather than dynamic and, predictably, not one of the top six went on to post a hundred, even though each of them got a start. It means that only one of England's top six willow-wielders - Alastair Cook - has reached three figures in the last five Tests. Cook and Paul Collingwood hit half centuries whilst Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell struck useful forties, but the unwelcome and unwanted trend continues.
A hot sun made batting a slightly more pleasurable pastime than it had been on the opening two days of the Test, but there is still enough movement in the air and off the pitch, especially when the ball is new, to suggest that England's bowlers will enjoy themselves when they bowl again.
England's batsmen were dismissed in a wide range of ways. Vaughan and Cook edged good balls behind the wicket, whilst Strauss would consider himself slightly unfortunate to be given out lbw, television replays suggested that the Jacob Oram delivery that got him pitched just outside leg stump.
Cook batted well for his 60, driving the ball down the ground whenever the Black Caps seamers over-pitched. He was dropped behind the wicket on five but issues like that do not bother him at all. In his innings he struck the first six of his international career off the 5,471st ball he has faced. The stroke, a top edged hook at Chris Martin that flew high over the keeper's head, was far from convincing but Cook enjoyed the moment.
Strauss was nowhere near as fluent as Cook but batted defiantly, as a player does when his international career is under threat. His 44 did not prove that he is back to his best but it should give him another chance to impress during next week's third Test in Napier.
Kevin Pietersen was just as unfortunate as Strauss when he was run out backing up. The non-striking batsman is encouraged to leave his crease as the bowler releases the ball but such an approach brings danger when the on-strike batsman drives straight down the ground. Ian Bell did just this to Chris Martin and as the ball came back to the bowler it flicked his hand and ricocheted on to the stumps with Pietersen six inches out of his ground.
With Pietersen gone New Zealand would have fancied their chances of dismissing England for a reasonable score, leaving them with a total they could possibly chase down. But Bell and Collingwood ended those aspirations with a responsible stand of 59. Bell had reached 41 when he drove loosely at an Oram length ball and was caught at backward point.
Tim Ambrose, England's first innings centurion, soon followed against the second new ball when a nip-backer from Oram beat his guard and shattered his stumps. Stuart Broad played a couple of attractive shots before edging Martin through to Brendon McCullum and Ryan Sidebottom gloved a Mark Gillespie bouncer off his nose to gully.
Collingwood completed his second half century of the match off the 107th ball he faced before being trapped plumb in front by Gillespie in the final over of the day. It would be a surprise if the Test went in to a fifth day.
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