New Zealand closed in on their first Test series win over England since 1999 after the tourists were reduced to 90 for four, still 391 runs adrift, on day four of the third and deciding Test in Auckland.
Opening batsman Peter Fulton became only the fourth New Zealand batsman to score a century in each innings of a Test as the hosts set England an improbable victory target of 481 when they declared their second innings at 241 for six after lunch at Eden Park.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum halted his side’s charge with the bat 45 minutes into the afternoon session, and the hosts set about destroying England’s chances of saving the match with the wickets of Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, captain Alastair Cook and finally nightwatchman Steven Finn before stumps.
England would need to break the world record for the highest successful run chase to win the match and the three-Test series, but the four late wickets from the rampant Kiwis left the tourists’ hopes in tatters ahead of the final day.
The tone was set for another dismal effort by the tourists as New Zealand plundered 141 runs for the loss of just one wicket in 26 overs after they had resumed on 35 for three at the start of the morning.
The New Zealand batsmen added 47 runs in less than an hour before Cook introduced Monty Panesar and the decision paid dividends as Dean Brownlie was dismissed for 28 after Ian Bell had sprinted back towards the mid-on boundary to take a well-judged, diving catch.
The wicket did little to slow New Zealand down with an inspired Fulton belting 19 boundaries in a knock that saw him reach three figures with his fifth maximum of the innings as the 34-year-old made a mockery of the paltry 204 all out that England mustered in their first innings.
Fulton, who brought up his ton with a glorious straight six off Stuart Broad, was eventually caught on the boundary by Joe Root for 110, following his 136 in the first innings. Andrew Jones was the last New Zealand batsman to make a century in each innings of a Test back in 1991 against Sri Lanka in Hamilton, and it was an incredible achievement for Fulton, who came into the match with a Test average of just 23, to emulate the feat.
BJ Watling was the only other batsman to be dismissed as McCullum was left unbeaten on 67 with a strike rate of 126 - his third half-century of the series and seventh in nine innings in all forms of cricket against the tourists - and England were left to attempt to bat out the match.
The tourists could hardly have made a more inauspicious start to their second innings as Compton was caught behind by Watling off the metronomic Tim Southee for two off just the third ball he faced.
Trott looked thoroughly assured in his role at the crease as he accompanied Cook in a 58-run stand, but he inexplicably attempted a loose drive to a wide delivery from Neil Wagner and edged behind to an ecstatic Watling for 37.
It was left to Cook and Ian Bell to attempt to see their side safely to stumps without further damage, but the England captain edged an attempted drive to Brownlie at slip off the part-time spin of Kane Williamson to depart for 43 with just five overs to go. It was another devastating blow for England as their faint hopes of saving the game appeared to fade away, and Williamson claimed his second late wicket as the nightwatchman Finn edged to Southee at gully to end the day.
England’s 170-over resistance to save the first Test in Dunedin is still fresh in the memory ahead of the final day, but the Black Caps, who had lost seven of their previous eight Tests before this series, remain very much on course for a stunning victory.
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