Auckland: England will have to survive 90 overs with only six second-innings wickets intact on the final day of the third cricket Test to avoid losing a Test series in New Zealand for the first time in 30 years.
England went to stumps Monday at 90 for 4 with Ian Bell 8 not out after New Zealand, leading by 239 runs on the first innings, declared their second innings at 241 for 6 and gave England the almost impossible task of scoring a world record 481 to win the match.
England lost Nick Compton (2), Jonathan Trott (37) , Alastair Cook (43), and Steve Finn (0) before stumps, suffering their most bitter blow when Cook fell in sight of the close of play.
The largest total achieved by any team in a successful fourth innings run-chase was the West Indies' 415 against Australia 10 years ago. Only England, for a draw, and New Zealand, in defeat, have scored more than 450 in the fourth innings of a Test.
New Zealand's hopes of claiming their first home series victory over England since 1983-84 rose sharply when they dismissed Compton in the second over of the innings. It peaked again when Trott was dismissed in the 24th over to leave England 60 for 2.
Cook, who had curbed ever attacking instinct in his three hour vigil, hitting only four fours, drove at part-time spinner Kane Williamson less than four overs from stumps and was caught at slip by Dean Brownlie.
Finn, the doughty nightwatchman who batted six hours to clinch the draw in the first Test at Dunedin, couldn't repeat that achievement and was dismissed without scoring to bring the day to an end. England lost their third and fourth wicket with the total at 90.
Left-arm seamer Neil Wagner nicked out Trott then Williamson removed the England captain and the nightwatchman with sharp slip catches. Brownlie held a stunning catch close in at second slip to dismiss Cook and Southee, never a slip fieldsman, made a similarly fine grab to oust Finn.
New Zealand will now enter the final day of the match and series in sight of an historic series victory, their first over England since 1999 when they won a four-Test series in England. The tourists, in contrast, must battle for survival, relying on Bell - out of form in this series - and the 22-year-olds Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who face the largest challenges of their short Test careers.
The drop-in pitch at Eden Park has been sound, if a little slow, on the first four days, providing little assistance for fast bowlers and only occasional turn for spinners out of the scuff marks that are now inevitable.
New Zealand made 443 in their first innings after being sent in to bat and there were few excuses for England's dismissal for 204 in reply. Left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult took 6 for 68 as both he and Tim Southee, New Zealand's new ball pair, found that fraction of swing that beat the bat and contributed to four lbw decisions.
Opener Peter Fulton then became only the fourth New Zealander to score centuries in each innings of a Test match as the home team added 106 to its overnight total Monday to reach a position at which it could declare with no fear of defeat.
Fulton followed his maiden Test century of 136 in New Zealand's first innings with 110 from 165 balls in the second, at first steadying the home side after it plunged to 8 for 3, then lashing out in a partnership of 117 with Brendon McCullum to hasten the declaration.
He joined Glenn Turner, against Australia in 1974, Geoff Howarth, against England in 1978, and Andrew Jones, against Sri Lanka in 1991, in scoring centuries in both innings of a Test.
"I wasn't exactly sure how many had scored two but I knew Glenn Turner had and I knew Andrew Jones was the last one and a long time ago now," Fulton said.
When he was out for 110 as New Zealand hurried towards the end of their innings, Fulton had batted for more than 11-1/2 hours in this match and scored almost 30 percent of the 684 runs New Zealand had amassed in their two innings.
He played vital roles in both, providing the strong framework on which New Zealand built their first innings of 443, notably in his 181-run partnership with Kane Williamson (91). He then navigated New Zealand through choppy waters when it chose not to enforce the follow on after dismissing England for 204 to take a 239-run first innings lead.
New Zealand lost Hamish Rutherford (0), Williamson (1) and Ross Taylor (3) in eight traumatic overs Sunday before Fulton, with help from Dean Brownlie, steered New Zealand to 35 for 3 at stumps.
"Those three wickets last night weren't in the script for us so I guess it was still edgy in the training room this morning," Fulton said. "I think I just committed myself to being positive."
Fulton and Brownlie carried New Zealand to 82 for 3 before Brownlie was out for 28, averting any threat of a collapse which might cost them the dominating position they had so painstakingly built over three days.
When Brownlie was out, Fulton opened up and showed the array of strokes which have brought him more than 1,100 runs in first-class matches in New Zealand this season. He took almost three hours to reach his half century, then added his second 50 in only 57 minutes from 42 balls.
Fulton and McCullum added 117 for New Zealand's fifth wicket in fewer than 17 overs, their century partnership from only 88 balls as they made evident their intentional to declare in an invincible position. Fulton's innings included 14 fours and five sixes and McCullum, who declared when New Zealand's sixth wicket fell at 1:55pm, had five fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 67.