In an arena of giants, Peter Fulton towered highest. And he was still standing after a memorable Eden Park day, his test opening spot and New Zealand's unbeatable series position carved in stone.
The 34-year-old, who began this season doubting he'd ever add to his 10 test caps, crafted a maiden test century against England's deflated pacemen and is hungry for more.
Fulton, with a first-class triple-century to his name, resumes today on 124, with New Zealand 250-1 and looking to bat two more sessions to ensure England depart these shores without a series victory.
It should be Kane Williamson's turn for the spotlight as he resumes 83 not out and eyeing his fourth test century, the pair having added 171 unbroken for the second wicket.
Fulton was recalled in Dunedin; his previous test was in December 2009 when his average barely ticked over 20. Having scored 55, one and 45 on docile surfaces, he needed one big score to make the sceptics sit up, especially with incumbent opener Martin Guptill in the stands after thumb surgery and a fortnight away from batting again.
"A mixture of excitement and relief is a good way of putting it. I wondered at the start of this season if I'd get another chance to try and get a test hundred," Fulton said.
"I've just tried this whole season to enjoy my cricket, and be nice and positive and take it as it comes, and not get too caught up in what's happened in the past and disappointments I've had along the way."
He scored a truckload of runs for Canterbury as he demanded selection.
Yesterday's knock tipped him over 1100 for the summer, the fourth-highest tally in a New Zealand first-class season behind Martin Crowe (1676 in 1986-87), Glenn Turner (1244 in 1975-76) and Graeme Hick (1228 in 1988-89).
"Mainly it's just the mindset; not worrying if I don't score runs, then I'm going to be dropped. Just enjoying it and making every second count."
At 1.98m, farmer's son Fulton used to cut an imposing figure chiming in at fullback for the Oxford rugby team in North Canterbury. Yesterday, after he played too wide and two early edges flew past the cordon, he looked equally hard to stop.
Both teams wanted to bowl first on a rock-hard pitch with an even grass covering, the series poised 0-0.
Test cricket returned to Eden Park for the first time in seven years and 8000 fans basked in the occasion.
England captain Alastair Cook called correctly and for Brendon McCullum, who had named an unchanged team, it was a great toss to lose.
The visiting pacemen toiled with a bit of bounce but little assistance or swing, bowled too short and only really threatened when James Anderson and Stuart Broad zipped some around with the second new ball.
By then Fulton was well in charge.
He spent nine deliveries on 99, then pushed Monty Panesar to wide mid-on for a short single, his century raised off 203 balls. His celebration was typically understated, including a small bat wave to the Barmy Army who had found their voice.
Fulton left the ball well, on-drove magnificently and hoisted Panesar's spin twice into the stands. The kindergarten boundaries helped, too, when he top edged Broad barely 50m for six.
Fulton said they were eyeing "as many runs as possible" today.
With Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum waiting, the pace will pick up and an unbeatable 500 will be the target. Whether they can skittle England twice is another matter, especially with swing worryingly absent for the pacemen yesterday.
Steven Finn (1-61) was England's solitary wicket-taker, nicking out Hamish Rutherford for 37.
"I thought we went past the edge a fair amount today. They were lucky in that regard," Finn said. "I don't think it's a disastrous day. We would've liked to have taken more than one wicket, obviously, but we're looking for more tomorrow. They've only got 250 on the board and a crazy session tomorrow can turn the game on its head."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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