Fleming bows out, NZ in trouble

Updated: 08 April 2008 08:25 IST

Stephen Fleming scores 66 in his final Test innings as England close in on a series win against New Zealand.


Stephen Fleming passed into retirement with an innings, which typified his career on the fourth day of the third cricket Test against England.

Fleming was out for 66 as New Zealand slumped from 147 for one to 222 for five at stumps on Tuesday, set a massive 553 to win by an England side, which has gained a vicelike grip on the match and series.

Fleming's half century was his 46th in 111 Tests, his second of the match and third of the series, but it brought to the fore again the qualification that has surrounded his career, that only nine times in that extensive period - 14 years in Tests - has he gone on to a Test century.

New Zealand needed Fleming to do so Tuesday as much as at any time in his career but, once again, after reaching his half-century from 69 balls in a stylish and chanceless manner, he wasted his start and was out too soon.

Fleming had come to the crease when New Zealand was 48 for one, striding through a guard of honour formed by his teammates and the England players.

He got off the mark with a streaky four through gully, then proceeded to play with typical poise and elegance, hitting seven more boundaries in reaching his half century in 89 minutes.

He shared a partnership of 99 with Matthew Bell (69) for New Zealand's second wicket, which awoke the possibility that while they might not make the 553 needed to win the match, they might at least bat the five and a half sessions to save it.

Then Fleming was undone. He played back when he should have played forward to a ball from off-spinner Monty Panesar which hurried onto him and the ball carried from the bottom edge of his bat to Tim Ambrose behind the stumps.

Fleming left the field with typical dignity, masking his disappointment, applauded by players and umpires and accorded a standing ovation by the more than 5,000 spectators, who watched the fourth day's play.

In surpassing 54 he had at least guaranteed he will finish with a Test batting average more than 40.

"I walked off frustrated, which has happened about 50-60 times in my career, and I did have a smile at myself that it was fitting way to go," he said. "If I'd scored a hundred it would have been anomaly."

Fleming's dismissal in New Zealand's first innings, after he had made 59 to steer them to 103 for one in reply to England's 253, was a signal to his teammates to collapse and their last nine wickets fell for 65 runs.

His loss on Tuesday had a similar, debilitating effect and, after helping New Zealand to 147 for one, he saw his team slump to 172 for five before Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum mounted a small recovery.

Taylor (34) and McCullum (24) had added 50 for the sixth wicket by stumps but New Zealand still trailed England by 330 runs.

"We were going very comfortably and look at my career. Things go pretty comfortably then there's a mistake, then we're in trouble," Fleming said. "Losing four wickets in a session has set us back.

"If it was one or two you'd say it as a pretty tight day going into tomorrow. As it goes, it's going to take some pretty strong resistance in the morning and then we'll see how we go."

Victory is now well beyond New Zealand and, with their last recognised pair at the crease, the task of batting through the final day to save the match is likely beyond them.

England is close to its second straight Test win - only its third in the last 18 Tests away from home -- and to a series win which follows recent series losses to India and
Sri Lanka.

Monty Panesar and Stuart Broad combined to undo New Zealand on day four. Panesar removed Fleming, Bell and Mathew Sinclair (6) in what, less auspiciously, is likely to be Sinclair's last Test innings for New Zealand.

He had three for 49 from 31 overs at stumps while Broad, shouldering a heavy workload, had 2-40 from 23.

Broad also scored 31 from 26 balls after England batted for 35 minutes early today before declaring at 467-7, a lead of 553.

Topics : Cricket
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