Harmison's fire keeps New Zealand within range

New Zealand 295-4 v England
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The Independent Online

For 83.4 overs of a subdued first day Stephen Fleming and a docile Trent Bridge pitch helped bring England down from the cloud on which they have recently been floating. The New Zealand captain, who posted a chanceless century, helped restore some pride in his beleaguered side and there was a stage when the scoreboard, on 272 for 2, was making pleasant reading for the tourists.

For 83.4 overs of a subdued first day Stephen Fleming and a docile Trent Bridge pitch helped bring England down from the cloud on which they have recently been floating. The New Zealand captain, who posted a chanceless century, helped restore some pride in his beleaguered side and there was a stage when the scoreboard, on 272 for 2, was making pleasant reading for the tourists.

But all that changed in two deliveries when Stephen Harmison, armed with the second new ball, ripped one through the defence of Nathan Astle before trapping Craig McMillan plum in front. The Durham paceman had to wait until the first ball of his next over to bowl the hat-trick ball and he almost repeated the feat of Matthew Hoggard in Barbados two months ago. Scott Styris wafted loosely at the delivery but the shiny new cherry flashed past the edge of his bat and into the gloves of Geraint Jones.

Harmison failed to take another wicket before the close of play but through his inspiration New Zealand, on 295 for 4, are still 200 runs away from being in a position where they can safely avoid a whitewash.

Thoughts of Lord's and Headingley, where New Zealand posted scores of 386 and 409 in their first innings but still lost heavily, may be weighing on Kiwi minds - Fleming will be hoping his seventh Test century is not wasted.

"Not many captains would turn down 300 for 4 at the end of the first day," said Fleming. "But we have been in happy positions in other games and have left with nothing. I think we need to get around 500 on this wicket to place some pressure on England. The pitch is flat and it will be hard work getting 20 wickets. But if we get 500 on the board we will have a lot more options."

Michael Papps' broken finger allowed Fleming to return to the unfamiliar position of opener but the elegant left-hander wasted no time in electing to bat when he won the toss. When the first delivery of the day from Hoggard looped gently into the gloves of Jones, it could be seen that this pitch held few demons and this enabled Fleming and Mark Richardson to bat with confidence.

England, through Harmison, attempted to rough up the New Zealand openers by attacking their rib cages with short-pitched bowling but the slow nature of the pitch gave the pair too much time to line up the ball.

This method of attack produced one chance but Andrew Strauss failed to hold on to the straightforward opportunity offered by Richardson. The 33-year-old also survived a confident appeal for caught behind when on 16. Television replays showed that Richardson's bat had made contact with the ball and Hoggard had wrongly been denied his 100th Test wicket. These were the only incidents during the morning session likely to cause a stir in the Black Caps' dressing-room.

Fleming is a far more fluent player than his fellow left-hander and his first 50 runs contained trade-mark clips off his legs and square drives. In an attempt to break the partnership Giles was given an early bowl but his left-arm spin failed to trouble either batsman.

After lunch New Zealand looked more positive. Richardson pulled Andrew Flintoff to the boundary and Fleming hit Giles for a four and a six in consecutive balls. This assault prompted Michael Vaughan to bowl Giles at the Pavilion End and the change brought England their first wicket.

Richardson has built his career around a dogged and careful approach and it was a surprise to see him dance down the wicket and attempt to slog the spinner over long-on. His desire to match Fleming's power backfired and he chipped a soft catch to Vaughan at short mid-wicket.

This set-back failed to put Fleming off. The 31-year-old survived a couple of close lbw appeals but moved to 96 with a two sweetly timed boundaries. Converting fifties into hundreds has been one of Fleming's few glitches as a Test cricketer but on this occasion he moved to three figures in stunning style.

The limping Martin Saggers, who surprisingly gained selection ahead of James Anderson because the selectors were concerned about the Lancashire seamer's ability to get through a Test match, was faced with the task of denying Fleming a deserved century.

But rather than nervously prod his way to three figures this proud Kiwi clipped the swing bowler over deep square-leg for six. It was a brilliant shot and as soon as Fleming hit the ball he took his right hand off the bat and triumphantly raised a clenched fist in the air.

"It was nice to get a hundred in Chris Cairns' last Test match," said Fleming. We are very good mates and it would be nice to see him off in the right way but I don't rate this innings as high as the 97 I scored at Headingley. The conditions here were a lot more friendly and this was more a case of cashing in on the pitch. There is a 21-run difference between the two but I had to work far harder at Headingley. It would have been good to be still there at the end because we really would be in a strong position.

England's bowlers worked hard throughout a demanding day and Vaughan attempted to chop and change things around - Giles' 24 overs were spread over six spells - but it was once again Harmison who stood out. The paceman bowled 23 challenging overs on an benign pitch, but England must be wary of the workload they are placing on his shoulders.

This series is won and there are still four important Test matches to be played against the West Indies. Vaughan will be tempted to keep bowling his match-winner but the ball should be kept away from him if England fail to dismiss New Zealand quickly this morning.

SCOREBOARD

New Zealand won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First innings

M H Richardson c Vaughan b Giles 73 208min, 169 balls, 11 fours

*S P Fleming c Thorpe b Flintoff 117 280min, 198 balls, 14 fours, 2 sixes

S B Styris not out 68 157min, 110 balls, 9 fours

N J Astle b Harmison 15 57min, 44 balls, 1 four

C D McMillan lbw b Harmison 0 1 min, 1 ball

J D P Oram not out 10 25min, 20 balls, 1 four

Extras (b2 lb8 nb 2) 12

Total (for 4, 366min, 90 overs) 295

Fall: 1-163 (Richardson) 2-225 (Fleming) 3-272 (Astle) 4-272 (McMillan).

To bat: C L Cairns, ÝB B McCullum, J E C Franklin, K D Mills, C S Martin.

Bowling: Hoggard 16-4-61-0 (nb1) (8-3-23-0, 3-0-21-0, 5-1-17-0); Harmison 23-6-59-2 (6-2-12-0, 7-2-18-0, 6-2-12-0, 4-0-17-2); Flintoff 12-2-41-1 (4-0-17-0, 3-0-16-0, 5-2-8-1); Saggers 14-3-58-0 (nb1) (6-2-18-0, 4-1-23-0, 4-0-17-0); Giles 24-5-61-1 (5-1-8-0, 7-2-20-0, 3-0-8-1, 5-1-11-0, 2-0-11-0, 2-1-3-0); Vaughan 1-0-5-0.

Progress: First day: 50: 74min, 17.1 overs. Lunch: 82-0 (Richardson 36, Fleming 43) 29 overs. 100: 135min, 32.5 overs. 150: 196min, 49 overs. Tea: 196-1 (Fleming 107, Styris 12) 60 overs. 200: 246min, 61.5 overs. 250: 320min, 79.1 overs. New ball taken after 82 overs at 259-2.

Richardson's 50: 143min, 116 balls, 8 fours.

Fleming's 50: 134min, 89 balls, 7 fours. 100: 231min, 161 balls, 12 fours, 2 sixes.

Styris' 50: 117min, 86 balls, 5 fours.

ENGLAND: M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, M A Butcher, *M P Vaughan, G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, ÝG O Jones, A F Giles, M J Hoggard, M J Saggers, S J Harmison.

Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and S J A Taufel (Aus).

TV replay umpire: M R Benson.

Match referee: C H Lloyd (WI).

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