England suffered their first loss to a First-Class side since 2006 at the Queenstown Events Centre today - the culprits being the New Zealand XI, who were victors by three wickets.
England declared first thing in the morning to set the hosts 334 to win from 90 overs. It loomed as a difficult task and England for much of the day were on top, but a brilliant unbeaten knock from BJ Watling (89*) secured an unlikely victory.
The NZ XI got off to a strong start with an opening wicket partnership of 56 between Hamish Rutherford (33) and Tom Latham (48), before the former departed in the 14th over.
A tug-of-war like battle ensued, with England capturing key wickets just as the NZ XI began to get on top. However with the loss of Dean Brownlie in the 51st over, the Kiwi side were reduced to 154 for five and were looking very susceptible to a full scale collapse.
However the following partnership between Corey Anderson and BJ Watling steadied the ship somewhat and all of a sudden it was once again all to play for.
Anderson became the aggressor and made a reasonably quick 44. He and Watling put on a crucial 82 for the sixth wicket and restored the local fan’s hope of an upset.
Even with the dismissal of Anderson, Watling managed to persist with his natural game and had all the answers to the English bowling attack. Further cameos from the lower-order continued to edge them closer, before a quick-fire 28 from Neil Wagner landed the final blow to send the NZ XI into ecstasy.
Watling finished not out in both innings and had a simply outstanding match, not letting through a single bye either. It was just one positive from a long list which will have the BLACKCAPS excited ahead of the first Test on Wednesday.
It may have just been a warm-up, but it was sure a memorable one.
Day three: Match on knife-edge
It might be listed as a warm-up match, but the game between the New Zealand XI and England at the Queenstown Event Centre heads into the final day with both teams fighting hard for honours.
New Zealand resumed day three at 224 for six and dug in to climb to 349 for eight before they declared 77 behind England’s first innings total. Corey Anderson was pivotal in leading them to that total, cracking 67 off 62 balls in smart fashion.
Anderson might have supplied the wiz-bang in the morning session, but BJ Watling played an important anchor role with an unbeaten 66 from 127 balls. He and Neil Wagner then edged ever closer to England’s 426, before declaring to give the game every chance of having a result.
The visitors’ second effort with the bat was not as convincing as their first, with the NZ XI taking wickets at regular intervals. The dangers of Jonathan Trott (20) and Kevin Pietersen (8) were both negated with little damage and it was only the introduction of Matt Prior (68) which really calmed the ship for England.
His most reliable partner was number ten Graeme Swann, who produced an unbeaten knock of 41 to extend his side’s lead and make sure that they would resume tomorrow to add as many runs as possible to their current lead of 333 runs.
Mark Gillespie posed a threat all day with the ball and was rewarded with shining figures of four for 87 from 16 overs. Wagner added two more to his first-inning haul of four, while Carl Cachopa also picked up a couple of key scalps.
The New Zealand XI will be desperate to get that last wicket early tomorrow and begin what is likely to be a very exciting run chase…
Day two: Rutherford leads NZ XI reply
Hamish Rutherford scored 90 on day two of the Four Day warm-up match between New Zealand XI and England, leading the home side to 224 for six at the end of day’s play.
After capturing the last three wickets of the day to have England all out for 426, New Zealand began their pursuit well, but were left to regret losing a couple of wickets to give England the upper-hand.
Captain Tom Latham (16) and Rutherford put on 56 for the opening wicket, until the former fell the first ball after lunch when he was trapped in front by Graeme Swann.
Carl Cachopa got off the mark with a six, but was dismissed without adding to the strike, as New Zealand lost a couple of quick wickets to be vulnerable at 94 for three.
Following a direct hit in the field from Kevin Pietersen to dismiss Neil Broom, Dean Brownlie was introduced to the crease and began to wrestle back control. Alongside Rutherford, he took the New Zealand XI through to 170 for three and looked in great touch with some classic strokes.
The latter stages of the afternoon though belonged to the visitors, with Rutherford and Brownlie (63) both dismissed and Jimmy Neesham unable to get off the mark before he too was sent back to the sheds.
Those three wickets leave New Zealand still 52 away from avoiding the follow on – something they’ll be desperate to do to try and take the match the full distance.
Broad looked the most dangerous of the bowlers, but only managed the one wicket from his 15 overs for 35 runs, while Swann led with two scalps on the day.
BJ Watling (25*) and Corey Anderson (0*) will resume tomorrow morning at the start of the third day.
Day one: Honours shared on Day One at Queenstown
Jimmy Neesham took four wickets for the New Zealand XI, as England finished 357 for seven on day one of the warm-up match at the Queenstown Event Centre.
Having opted to bowl first, the home side bowled well and held their catches to apply good pressure against a top-class English batting line-up. They didn’t have it completely their own way though, with Ian Bell putting on a splendid 127 not out to secure his side will make a respectable first up total.
While opening bowlers Mark Gillespie and Neil Wagner caused some problems early on, it was first-change Neesham who initially broke through with the wicket of Nick Compton (21).
The 22 year-old all-rounder then took two more key scalps in Jonathan Trott (1) and Kevin Pietersen (14), helping reduce England to 98 for three at lunch.
The England middle-order all made starts, but rarely got right on top of the New Zealand side, despite what was turning out to be somewhat of a master-class from Bell. The 32 year-old scored at a reasonable rate without taking huge risks and after 260 minutes brought up his ton off 183 balls.
He began to found the boundary more regularly following the milestone, inflicting some late pain on the NZ XI late in the day’s play.
Neesham’s figures of four for 65 from 17 overs were the best figures of the day, while Wagner picked up a couple and Carl Cachopa picked up the key wicket of the recently prolific Joe Root (49).
Bell and Stuart Broad (6*) will resume at the crease tomorrow for the start of the 91st over.