16:50: There's more chance of Cow Corner winning Britain's Got Talent with its ventriloquist act than there is of play resuming. We'll call that a day, barring any miracles.
Which brings us to: COMPETITION RESULT!
New Zealand's run rate today was a brisk 3.74 an over, which means the winner is... terrysmith2014!
Well done sir, your 3.75 was almost exactly right. No wonder you are a top executive. Send your details to email@example.com and the coveted notepad will be in the post by, ooh, let's say Tuesday.
Cow Corner is back tomorrow from 10am or thereabouts. See you then.
15.59 - New Zealand 202-4 (54 overs): BAD LIGHT STOPS PLAY! It's getting pretty murky and inevitably the umpires offer the light to Taylor and Oram, who march off. Such was the Black Caps' ascendancy, Cowers might have been tempted to stay on.
15.54 - New Zealand 191-4 (53 overs): Taylor and Oram move past the 50 partnership as the former hits a straight four off the increasingly red-faced Broad. Oram is playing it cool with 13 from 41 balls, letting Taylor do the damage at the other end.
15.40 - New Zealand 180-4: Good news! The umpires are out and we will be ready to resume play in a minute or two. It's also half price to get in for the evening session, if you are in Manchester, are interested, and can tear yourself away from Cow Corner.
TEA - New Zealand 180-4: We are hearing that Daniel Flynn will come back in to bat, albeit looking like Albert Steptoe. That Anderson bouncer hit him in the grille, which was bent back into his face. Meanwhile our spy at Old Trafford is making less-than-optimistic noises about the weather, but on a brighter note he is sitting behind Aaron Redmond's WAG.
15.19 - New Zealand 180-4 (50 overs): OH CRAP, IT'S RAINING! A light Manchester drizzle prompts our Aussie umps to bring the players off. Tea has been called early, and let's hope it is a momentary shower. Certainly it is not as gloomy as at Lord's last weekend.
15.12 - New Zealand 178-4 (49 overs): Stuart Broad's return to the England attack coincides with a mini-lull in proceedings. Which is just as well if you're England, who had been going for nearly six an over since lunch.
terrysmith2104 asks: "Cowers, with regard to your comment on the jimmy saville lookey likey who purports to lead the barmy army, have you any idea who he is and how he gets to fund trips to follow the team everywhere in the world or could it be that he actually monty panesars batmaker required to be on call 24/7 unless one of the great mans bats fail to perform." Glad you asked. His name is Victor Flowers, and he is famous enough to have his own Wikipedia entry HERE.
14.56 - New Zealand 171-4 (45 overs): Taylor cuts yet another four and brings up his half-century. His 53 have come off just 52 balls, and has feasted on the shoddy bowling of Jimmy Anderson, who is one for 66 off 12 overs. The Black Caps hitting their way out of trouble here.
14.44 - New Zealand 163-4 (43 overs): Anderson is getting some tap, going for 14 off the over including a majestic pull from Taylor that arrows for a flat six. Competition fever is still alive and well, with sikka316 beginning to rue his prediction of a 3.8 run rate. "I make it about 3.4 at the moment, come on you white feathers got to up it if i'm to have the glory of the Yahoo Notebook!" Well more of the same from Taylor and Anderson and you could be in luck. That's drinks.
14.34 - New Zealand 136-4 (41 overs): OUCH!! Jimmy Anderson digs in a bouncer and hits Daniel Flynn right in the face. He draws blood, and on closer inspection the New Zealander has lost a front tooth. Painful stuff, and Flynn exits the field for some impromptu dental work. Hilariously, Sky have a graphic prepared showing the delivery from the batsman's point of view. Oram comes out in Flynn's stead.
14.25 - New Zealand 136-4 (40 overs): The ball has gone soft and misshapen. Cowers knows the feeling. After brief consultation, umpires Hair and Taufel agree to change it. Ross Taylor promptly cuts the new ball to backward point for four off Panesar, moving on to 27.
14.17 - New Zealand 131-4 (38 overs): New man Errol Flynn settles in with a four off Panesar. Anderson continues to prove more expensive than a Fendi handbag, having gone for 39 off his eight overs.
14.08 - New Zealand 123-4 (36 overs): WICKET! McCullum hits Panesar for four before launching him for a huge six over, appopriately enough, Cow Corner. But then Monty strikes back! He tempts McCullum into a loose drive that catches the edge, richochets off Ambrose's right glove and is pounched by Paul Collingwood at slip. McCullum goes for a brisk 11 off 10 balls.
14.05 - New Zealand 113-3 (35 overs): Monty is back into the attack, which means frivolous appeals aplenty. And just ask Jeremie Aliadiere how they usually work out. the_kop2003 weighs in with an embarrassing attempt to appear down with the kids: "Best thing to happen today was me having a gorgeous chicken tikka sandwich for lunch, ooh nelly that was, as they say on the street, bo' shizzle my nizzle brap brap tasty treats, bizzle?" g_hine adds: "The admin lady brought us some delicious cream cakes in today... I had me a cream slice."
13.55 - New Zealand 102-3 (33 overs): WICKET, GOT 'IM!! Anderson finds the edge of How's bat and he nibbles it to Ambrose for a regulation catch. A key wicket that, and it makes up for a poor bowling display this morning. How gone for 64, and danger man Brendan McCullum jogs out to the middle.
13.46 - New Zealand 101-2 (32 overs): A slanted Anderson delivery hits How on the top of the knee roll. A muted appeal is quickly dismissed, although HawkEye reckons the ball is going on to hit the top of leg stump.
How then creams a superb cover drive for four off Sidebottom to bring up the New Zealand hundred. He bats with a very open face and it resulted in a lovely shot there.
13.43 - New Zealand 93-2: The afternoon session gets under way with a solid over from Sidebottom (is there any other type). During the interval, the Sky lot had a chat about sledging, in which Nasser Hussain described racism as 'over the top'. Nice to know.
13.00 - New Zealand 92-2: LUNCH: Sidebottom's swing bowling gets England back in the match in the 15 minues before lunch.
12.50 - New Zealand 86-2: YES! SMELL MY CHEESE, YOU MUTHA! Sidebottom, still around the wicket, bends one back in to new batsman Marshall...beats the drive...strikes the front pad...GOT 'IM. Taufel, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, gives it.
12.47 - New Zealand 86-1: "Well, we're all a bit surprised with this pitch," exclaims Ian Botham. "I, for one, was expecting a lot more pace and bounce." Always nice to hear a commentator tucking into a slice of humble-crumble. Although Cowers expects Botham's came with a side-order of sweet meat-conceit.
12.38 - New Zealand 81-1: WICKET! Sidebottom goes around the wicket, gets one to duck in a little. Redmond decides to leave it - which proves a little silly, as the ball clips off. Sidebottom seems a bit confused by it all, first throwing his hands to his head in dispair, then appealing to the umpire before he realises the full implications of hitting the off-stump and begins to celebrate.
12.28 - New Zealand 76-0: How cuts off the front-foot to Broad, slicing the ball over the top of gully for a couple. Collective hands-on-heads from England. "Ooooh," they cry. "Aaah," sigh the crowd. "Hummm," mutter the commentators, stroking their chin and trying to look important.
Sidebottom is back into the attack. He bowled pony in his first spell. Otis Gibson, the England bowling coach, looks on from the home dressing room. He looks particularly angry, and more than a little like Wesley Snipes in White Men Can't Jump. He got AT-TIT-TUDE, brother.
12.16 - New Zealand 71-0: eliotot seems a bit upset that Cowers chose a run-rate of 4.22, after he chose one of 4.23. A little perplexed that the prospect of a Yahoo! notebook could inspire such passion, but there you go. Live with it, eliotot. Incidentally, entry to the competition is now officially closed.
Redmond's injudicious slog-sweep to Monty flies high...narrowly out of reach of the slightly girly-diving Broad. Next ball, Redmond pounds the bowler through cover for a four. The Kiwis seem to be adopting an aggressive approach against Monty; he must have done something to upset them. Perhaps they read yesterday's Cow Corner...
12.08 - New Zealand 62-0: Plenty of grumpy Lancastrians about, bemoaning the fact that this will be Old Trafford's last Test match for three years. Suppose it makes a change from them moaning about greyhounds or meat pies or the decline of the cotton industry.
Monty is still getting turn and has beaten the bat a couple of times. England must be a bit miffed by this pitch; they were assured it was going to be like playing on a car-park - instead it's like playing on a beach.
11.57 - New Zealand 61-0: Sweet Valley High. How smites Monty for a one-bounce four over square-leg. England are getting a bit of a shoeing, here. It's quite nice to see, strangely. Something oddly satisfying about seeing the usually too-cool-for-school Vaughan with slumped shoulders and an expression that would make a Klingon wet his pants.
11.51 - New Zealand 52-0: Vaughan clearly isn't happy with his bowlers at the moment. Staggeringly, Monty Panesar is into the attack after just 39 minutes of play. He immediately gets some turn and bounce - but more surprisingly, the pitch is already breaking up on impact. Redmond makes his own statement by smashing Monty over the top for four. He looks pleased as punch with himself; puffing out his chest, bit of a swagger. Someone should tell him that carries more weight when you've got a first-class average of more than 31. Incidentally, the current run-rate is 4.22...
11.37 - New Zealand 35-0: elmhurst99 is already turning his thoughts to a case of Stella; not even past the yard-arm yet, my friend. Some fancy graphic on the television comparing Jimmy Anderson deliveries shows that the Lord's pitch for the first Test actually had more pace and bounce than this one here at Old Trafford - thus rendering most of the pre-match chat as speculative nonsense. Pundits talking nonsense? Cowers never thought it would see the day.
11.29 - New Zealand 21-0: Walking-wicket Redmond has made a decent start; he's 13no, possibly the best score of his fledgling career. It's turned a bit cold in Manchester. Of course, England will be okay; they're wearing their new high-tech whiter-than-whites (like the complexion of the fifth daughter on the twelth night...)
11.18 - New Zealand 10-0: Some interesting entries in the white-hot competition to win the Yahoo! notebook (comes complete with first-page scribble: "Tell Microsoft to go suck ass..."). Not wanting to feel left out, Cowers is going to have a crack: 3.47. Of course, in the unlikely event of Cowers winning his own competition, after stripping naked and dancing on the desk whilst singing a reggae version of Blowin' in the Wind, he will award said notepad to the second-nearest entry.
11.11 - New Zealand 7-0: Anderson, running into a strength of breeze usually only found in a Formula 1 wind-tunnel testing facility, beats Redmond with a bit of a snorter first-up. Umpire Darrell Hair is making a high-profile return to the Test game. Cowers opinion? Good umpire, massive idiot.
11.00 - HERE WE GO! PANT-WETTINGLY EXCITING! Sidebottom shuffles in like Benny Hill chasing a pretty nurse to hurl down the first over... It's a maiden, although Sidey does beat the inside edge of How's bat with an in-ducker with the final ball.
10.49 - Bounce. Pace. Few cracks. Patchy grass. That's the chat about the pitch, summed up succinctly. Sir Ian Botham has hauled his massive head out to the middle to take a closer look: he says it's the quickest wicket in the country. The wind is coming from a "strange direction," apparently. From his mouth, from what I can work out. His suit looks too small for him.
10.44 - Thoughts from the commenters turn to a competition. How about this one...run-rate over the course of the New Zealand innings, or should they bat all day, the course of the day. Get your entries in...............NOW!
10.38 - Iain O'Brien for Tim Southee is New Zealand's one change. Southee has been ill over the last couple of days (delightfully described as "Coming out of both ends" by Kiwi coach John Bracewell...) and the slightly taller, faster O'Brien replaces him.
10.32 - New Zealand skip Danny Vettori calls a head at the toss....and head it is. "Err, yip, we'll have a bat mate. Looks a bit overcast, but should be a great wicket..."
10.24 - Back to the cricket (aaah, cricket...I knew I was here for something...). We are still on for the scheduled 11am start; the skies are grey but dry at present. Plenty of old pros milling about Old Trafford, attempting to look important. There's old Jack Simmons. Now he is important. Cowers had the pleasure of meeting Flat Jack on several occasions during his youth. He is a fine, fine man, a true gent. He must be a fantastic granddad to some lucky kids. Always ready with a Werther's Original, I imagine. Probably happy to allow you a sly sup of his stout behind your mum's back. Happy to share racing tips with you.
10.15 - Cowers appreciates its readers will be already aware of this fact, but it is Bob Dylan's birthday on the morrow. Now, although all Cowers' powers of expression, his thoughts so sublime, could never do him justice in reason or rhyme...in honour of this quite splendid man, today's blog will be riddled with unashamed references to a man Cowers would happily sell his sister to spend an afternoon with. Younger sister, obviously.
09.59 - Elmhurst99, Cowers is sure you'll find Manchester a splendid place to live; a vibrant and spirited place, full of life, excitement and adventure around every corner. Which is another way of saying the city centre is riddled with pissed-up students and tramps that look like Liam Gallagher.
09.41 - Cowers has a prize to give away today. Hold on to your hats - it's a Yahoo! notepad. Never again will you be tormented by a lack of somewhere to jot down those profound and soul-touching thoughts that spring forth at the most inconvenient moments.
09.22 - g_hine is a quick-drawer this morning. Seems a nice fella, the G-man. Articulate, considered, well-mannered. The sort of well-rounded chap Cowers would happily allow to marry his sister. Older sister, obviously. Cowers wouldn't wish his younger sister on anyone.
09.15 - Hi there, cricket fans!! Nice to see you! Come on in, make yourself at home. Tu casa, mi casa. Help yourself to a drink and nibbles....anything else, just come and see me. Cowers is here to serve. Serve and protect.
The rather worrying news is that there has been a spot - just a spot, mind - of overnight rain in Manchester. Those who are familiar with the city can afford a wry smile at this point, for rain in Manchester is not an uncommon thing, as this anonymous 1821 poem testifies.
I arrived in a show'r, in the wet now set off,
Eight days in the place I remain'd;
Seven days seven nights and a quarter, I vow,
By Jove! It incessantly rain'd,
What then? not a day not an hour was I dull:
The Lancashire Lads play'd their parts:
I found every friend of politeness brim full,
And myself in the midst of the Arts.
May Manchester flourish! and if once again
By chance I should ere be brought hither,
I hope that from weeping the clouds may refrain,
And grant me a peek at fine weather.
You don't get poetry on Early Doors, eh?
It isn't raining at the moment - but there is a good chance of the odd shower passing overhead throughout the day. What can I say? Don't shoot the messenger. In fact, don't shoot anyone. It's not very nice.
Although...if you do happen across that half-witted egotist who has appointed himself the leader of the "Barmy Army", that Jimmy Saville-alike chump who wears the shiny Cross of St George and leads his simple-minded minions in the incessant droning of "Everywhere we go-ooo..." - well, I'd probably look away if you chose to give him a quick kick in the shins.