- NZ XI v Eng XI, Tour match, Queenstown, 3rd day
Pietersen, Trott and Compton fail again
England's top order produced another uncertain display in Queenstown leaving some of the batsmen short of time ahead of the Test series to follow a poor morning with the ball which allowed the New Zealand XI to score at six-an-over.
Nick Compton and Kevin Pietersen could not make substantial contributions for the second time in the match. It was left to Matt Prior and later, an aggressive Graeme Swann in a 60-run partnership with Ian Bell, to ensure that England did not stumble completely in their attempt to set a matchwinning lead following Tom Latham's aggressive pre-lunch declaration. By the close of play, England had a strong advantage of 333 to set up an interesting final day.
Compton is entering a crucial Test series on a personal level. He needs to kick-on from the solid performances in India and show he can convert starts into match-dominating scores. On a gentle surface, although one on which the New Zealand XI bowlers, especially Neil Wagner, found more help than their England counterparts, there was a good chance for Compton to ease any nervousness. But he gloved a pull against Mark Gillespie in the first over after lunch.
Pietersen will shrug off his lack of time in the middle. He played one cracking square drive before pulling Wagner down the leg side where BJ Watling took an excellent catch. Jonathan Trott, however, was more visibly frustrated at his failure at an extended stay - nibbling outside off against Gillespie - and could be heard berating himself as he walked back.
There are no concerns over Alastair Cook, so his run out, in the bigger picture, was not a worry but more a quirk as it came soon after the first such dismissal of his first-class career - his run out in the Kolkata Test. He did not appear worried.
Prior, pushed up the order to No. 5, played with the fluency that makes him so watchable as he collected 11 boundaries in a brisk 68. His keenness to attack anything outside off ended his innings when he edged Wagner, the left-arm quick moving into pole position to take the final place in New Zealand's Test squad.
Wagner bowled sharply during the afternoon and England's play against his short-pitched bowling was not always convincing. Gillespie's aggressive late spell that accounted for Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad - the latter fending a short ball to gully - to take his haul to four may have come too late.
Before lunch, the home side had raced along after the second new-ball was taken. Latham, the New Zealand captain, however, closed the innings at 349 for 7 and kept the match very open.
England's bowling was profligate, particularly from Graham Onions, who returned with figures of 1 for 131 from 22 overs. And that wicket only came when Corey Anderson, the Canterbury allrounder, who had belted 67 off 62, including 22 off one of Onions' overs, clubbed to mid-on.
Onions had problems with his delivery stride, sending down five no-balls in six overs, as he drifted further from Test match contention. Broad, who had already moved very close to securing that position, wasn't without faults either as he conceded nearly a run-a-ball to somewhat dent his solid figures from previous day.
A considerable amount of damage to the bowling figures was done by Anderson despite a side strain he picked up on the opening day that ruled him out of bowling for the rest of the game. He was quick onto the pull (for which there were plenty of opportunities to play) and dispatched Onions for a six into the only stand at the ground. In total, 58 of his runs came in boundaries.
Watling, the Test wicketkeeper, was a steady partner in a rollicking stand of 105 in 18 overs and, like Dean Brownlie and Hamish Rutherford, will take confidence into the Test match.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo