A double failure by star England batsman Kevin Pietersen would be high on the list of good news stories for New Zealand’s cricketers ahead of a daunting test series.
So there may have been some extra gusto to Neil Wagner’s usually exuberant post-wicket celebrations after dismissing Pietersen for eight, to give him 22 runs for the match in Queenstown.
Usually England’s cricketers get two or three pre-test warmup fixtures around the globe. But with the tight schedules and the desire for New Zealand to play a rare three-test series, this four-dayer is all they get before Wednesday’s series opener in Dunedin.
Pietersen was rested for the limited overs portion of this tour, having last batted for England in an ODI against India on January 27. There were similar struggles for another test batsman playing his first tour match, opener Nick Compton, who also tallied 22 runs from two innings after he was removed for one by Mark Gillespie.
At stumps on day three of the four-day match, England were 256-9 in their second innings, a lead of 333 which sets up an intriguing final day against the New Zealand XI.
Wellington paceman Gillespie was one of the day’s prominent figures, seemingly well behind Wagner in the race for the 13th spot in New Zealand’s test squad.
He removed Compton, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad to snare figures of 4-87 from 16 overs. Still, his test chances look to have gone west after he delivered 12 no-balls yesterday to make it 23 for the match.
Wagner, who played in New Zealand’s most recent test in Port Elizabeth, showed more control and had 2-56 off 19 including the prized scalp of Pietersen, caught behind.
The brilliant diving effort down the leg side was one of BJ Watling’s four catches to continue an impressive shakedown for the test gloveman. Watling was unbeaten on 66 in the New Zealand XI’s first innings of 349-7 declared.
England wicketkeeper Matt Prior topscored with 68 in his side’s second innings, having hit the ground running with 41 on day one.
Test No 3 Jonathan Trott scored one and 20 but had plenty of crease time in the ODI series while Alastair Cook and Ian Bell will hit Dunedin in prolific form.
All-rounder Corey Anderson provided the star turn of the morning session, belting 67 off 62 balls against an England attack without their two frontliners Steven Finn and James Anderson who are resting.
Which batting pair would be best at opening in ODIs for the Black Caps?