England set New Zealand a mammoth 468 to win the second cricket test at Headingley, leaving them nearly five sessions to survive for a draw with rain threatening on the final day.
Home captain Alastair Cook finally declared just after 2pm local time on day four with his side 287-5, having led by 180 on the first innings. By that stage the innings had degenerated into a slog against part-time spinner Martin Guptill, with England strangely batting on after lunch.
The highest successful test runchase is 418-7 by West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2002-03. New Zealand's record chase is 324-5 against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1993-94.
Only two results remained possible, an England win and a draw. If New Zealand could drastically improve on their meek first innings of 174, and the forecast rain arrives on the final day then they could escape with a draw to leave the series 1-0 to England.
Cook led the way with 130, his 25th test century, while Jonathan Trott scored 76 as the hosts increased their run rate on a good batting pitch against a weary New Zealand attack. They had to back up after only 43 overs rest during their team's ordinary first innings performance.
With New Zealand pace spearhead Trent Boult absent with a side strain, off-spinner Williamson took the only two wickets to fall in the first session, those of Cook and Ian Bell (6) who both looked to hit out.
Williamson was the most successful New Zealand bowler with 3-68 off 24 overs whilst Neil Wagner was the only other wicket-taker with 2-67.
At lunch on an increasingly cloudy Bank Holiday Monday, the hosts were 249-3 with a lead of 429.
Trott swung hard at a Wagner delivery and captain Brendon McCullum took an excellent diving catch behind the stumps, his sixth of the match.
Joe Root (28 off 22) and Jonny Bairstow (26 not out off 22) then hit out as Wagner also claimed the wicket of Root just before the declaration.
Left-arm paceman Boult was absent from team warmups and management confirmed he wouldn't bowl again in the England second innings after he aggravated an existing side injury. He starred in the first innings with figures of 5-57 but bowled just two overs in the second.
Boult would still bat if required and will likely visit a specialist for scans on the team's return to London on Wednesday, to determine his fitness for the three ODIs against England and the Champions Trophy.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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