Cook facing uphill survival battle


Published: Tuesday 2nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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Alastair Cook was engaged in an improbable rearguard to try to salvage a stalemate after his England team lost four wickets for 15 runs early on the final day at Headingley.

There had been fanciful thoughts the previous evening that England could perhaps rewrite history in this second Investec Test against New Zealand by chasing a world-record 455 to win and wrap up the series 2-0.

But after they faltered from 44 without loss to 102 for five at lunch, albeit with their captain still undefeated, it was obvious the limit of ambition could now only be to try to eke out the remaining wickets for two more sessions to cling on for a 1-0 success.

Trent Boult and Mark Craig delivered for New Zealand, with two wickets each, on a cloudy morning.

Adam Lyth was first to go to a very good ball from Boult, swinging away from off and middle and taking a very feint outside edge after a secondary movement off the pitch.

It was hard to see how Lyth could have done much differently.

But the same could not be said for England’s next two departures.

Gary Ballance was bowled by Boult for the second time in the match, paying again for staying back in his crease to full length and this time bowled off his pads by the left-armer’s variation delivery into him.

Then Ian Bell extended his poor run to 55 in eight innings when he guided a low catch off a closed but defensive face to a leg-slip posted moments beforehand by Brendon McCullum for off-spinner Craig.

It was Joe Root who had, rather surprisingly, emphasised England’s chances of an improbable victory at his close-of-play press conference on Monday.

If he was still entertaining that prospect, he never got an even break to try – pushing Craig firmly off the back foot but straight on the line of short-leg Tom Latham, who stood his ground and grabbed a rebound off his chest to send the Yorkshire batsman back unluckily for a second-ball duck in front of a sparse home crowd.

England had lost three wickets for one run and were in danger of folding under pressure.

Cook found an ally in Ben Stokes to add 40 runs, only for another McCullum hunch to work a treat just before lunch.

He brought Kane Williamson on as an alternative off-spinner after Craig had bowled unchanged from the Kirsktall Lane end, and he duly struck with his fifth delivery when Stokes edged a little extra bounce behind.

Published: Tuesday 2nd June 2015 by The News Editor

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