Ian Botham backs Alastair Cook after New Zealand score big in Auckland
Beefy says Alastair Cook's decision to field in Auckland was right, despite New Zealand racking up the runs.
Last Updated: 22/03/13 11:15am
Alastair Cook elected to field after winning the toss - the same ploy home skipper Brendon McCullum used in the first two drawn Tests, in Dunedin and Wellington - but the 28-year-old's bowlers failed to make any significant in-roads.
Peter Fulton (124no) accrued his maiden five-day century, while Kane Williamson notched an elegant 83 not out as New Zealand finished proceedings with just Hamish Rutherford (37) back in the pavilion.
Former England all-rounder Botham thinks England's hopes of snaring the series have taken a huge dent, but refused to blame Cook's call and says the hosts were slightly 'lucky' to have come through the day relatively unscathed.
"It is easy to sit back now and say England should have batted, but I think Cook did the right thing," said Beefy. "His side have to take 20 wickets to win the game and he was giving himself every opportunity by putting the opposition in.
"Cook expected the ball to do more and go through more but it just didn't do it, while New Zealand had a bit of luck in the first 45 minutes with edges not carrying and some plays and misses, so it could have been a different story.
"England can still win it, but they need to have a remarkable session somewhere in the next two sessions and take quite a few wickets quickly and then bat big and long but, realistically, it looks like a draw now.
"However, I don't expect England to get bowled out here because if Fulton and Williamson can bat that well against our attack, there is no reason we can't bat well against the New Zealand bowlers - and four days is a hell of a long time in Test cricket."
Botham also gave his backing to visitors' bowling attack after a pretty fruitless day at Eden Park, but Rob Key and Mark Butcher were concerned by the performances of Steve Finn - who claimed Rutherford's scalp - and Monty Panesar.
"Finn is bowling with a shorter run-up, something he is not tried and tested with, especially after back-to-back Test matches," said Kent batsman Key.
"He doesn't look like he has a niggle, he just looks tired; he fatigued pretty quickly and lost his line and length and his consistency went."
Butcher said: "Monty gave an element of control but didn't threaten at all; there wasn't an appeal and when he went past the bat it was very innocuous. It looked a bit like the old, slightly sulky Monty.
"He wasn't really involved in things, which is a shame because after his brilliant tour of India and Graeme Swann's injury you hoped he would kick on - but he looks out of sorts."
Butcher also highlighted the performance of Fulton after the 34-year-old Kiwi opener recorded his first Test ton in his 13th match, while fellow Sky Sports pundit Mike Atherton feels New Zealand will pump up their run-rate once middle-order strokemakers Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum hit the crease.
"It's easy to dismiss the pitch as being too flat and say the Kookaburra ball is useless, but Fulton has batted for his Test-playing life and has played absolutely beautifully," said Butcher, who scored eight tons in his 71 Tests for England.
"He hasn't given a chance, played entirely to his strengths, which is mainly the leg side, and hit some glorious shots. He was under some pressure but he has come through it and led his side into a position where they may not lose the series."
Atherton added: "You could argue about the scoring rate in the final session as Fulton hasn't exactly galloped away, but I think New Zealand will be very happy indeed, plus they have got Taylor and McCullum to come.
"They are two of the most aggressive batsmen in world cricket and they will very quickly lift the rate if they have to and put Panesar under severe pressure with these straight boundaries."