Opening pair keep England on course for draw with New Zealand in first Test

England 167 & 234-1 New Zealand 460-9 decl.


Nick Compton's maiden Test century, and Alastair Cook's 24th, made a mockery of England's first-innings failings as they sought to salvage a draw after all at the University Oval.

England's first double-century opening stand for almost four years, and their highest ever against New Zealand, helped them to 234 for one by stumps on day four of the first Test.

They still trailed by 59, having conceded a mammoth deficit first time round, but could be increasingly optimistic about closing out a stalemate tomorrow thanks to their twin hundreds.

For Compton (102no), grandson of one of England's greatest batsman Denis, today's breakthrough innings meant he was upholding an especially famous family tradition.

The small matter of 16 more centuries are required to emulate his grandfather.

Captain Cook (116) is already out on his own, of course, as his country's most prolific centurion after his 23rd at Kolkata three months ago.

He was first to three figures again, sweeping his 13th four from his 221st ball off Bruce Martin.

Compton, however, kept his well-wishers waiting until the penultimate over of the day when - with Cook just gone - he at last pushed Tim Southee for a single into the leg-side to reach his milestone in 259 deliveries and approaching six hours.

England this morning found themselves needing to bat the majority of five and a half sessions to stay level after this first match of three.

Compton began with work still to do to confirm himself as the captain's partner for next summer's Ashes, but could consider himself considerably better established in that role by stumps.

He played and missed several times and survived an optimistic DRS procedure for caught-behind on 16 but was otherwise largely assured for all but the final half hour of the day.

The 29-year-old got himself off a pair with a pushed single from the first ball he faced, also off Southee, and he and Cook barely had a moment of concern thereafter until the protege opener reached the nervous 90s.

A succession of dicey, scrambled singles ensued - Cook just making his ground when called through by Compton on 93 and his partner almost running himself out on 94.

England's batsmen had been profligate in the extreme at their first attempt two days ago, and Cook and Compton were determined to set the tone for the much more disciplined performance the tourists so badly needed.

They did so admirably for almost 85 overs, in which Trent Boult in particular strangled the scoring rate but no bowler carried a worrying threat on this reliable pitch.

Finally Cook, with Compton still searching for that precious 100th run, got a thin edge behind off the left-armer to give the Kiwi attack their only success of the day with the score on 231.

Their own batsmen had licence to attack when they continued for 40 minutes on another cool and cloudy morning - a situation which perfectly suited Brendon McCullum (74).

From a start-of-play 402 for seven, the Kiwis bagged another 58 runs for two wickets in under nine overs before the declaration came.

McCullum's share was 30 from just 17 balls, including two sixes off James Anderson and one off Stuart Broad.

He began with a mighty pull off Broad high into the trees at deep square-leg, and then repeated the dose off Anderson at the other end before also striking him high over long-off for good measure.

Debutant tailender Martin was no slouch either, in a stand of 77 which ended when McCullum aimed another huge hit at Broad (three for 118) but succeeded only in propelling the ball vertically.

Anderson was the man under the skier at midwicket, and his hands were mercifully safe.

Still New Zealand pressed on until Martin was ninth out, caught behind trying to pull and giving Steven Finn his only wicket of the innings.

That was the point at which the pressure was squarely back on England.

But it was met convincingly by the two men at the top of their order.


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