sport

Compton fails to press his claim

Nick Compton and Kevin Pietersen's single-figure scores were sources of concern on a wobbly third day for England against a New Zealand XI.

The tourists eventually scrambled up to 256 for nine and a lead of 333, despite Mark Gillespie's four for 87, after their hosts had declared behind on 349 for seven.

But without typically counter-attacking innings from Matt Prior (68) and then Graeme Swann, they might have been in a tight spot going into the final day of this warm-up match at the Queenstown Event Centre ground.

Compton's failure at the top of the order was especially inconvenient, and England could have done with some runs too for Pietersen.

In their final innings before next week's first Test in Dunedin, however, neither could take his opportunity.

The England collective encountered a spot of unscripted bother too, in their only red-ball outing before a three-match series most expect them to win with ease.

The difficulties began with an hour-and-a-half of unexpected punishment for England's seamers from Corey Anderson and BJ Watling.

Graham Onions, in particular, was taken apart in a spell of 4-0-36-0 with the second new ball as Anderson (67) and Watling (66no) raced past a century stand in only 18 overs.

If that was a worrying passage of play, what followed after lunch was even more so - until Prior came to the rescue with a near run-a-ball half-century.

Compton, pencilled in to remain at the top of the order next week, had only a single when he gloved an attempted pull behind off Gillespie in the first over after lunch.

England's next setback was unusual, in that Alastair Cook was run out for only the second time in his first-class career - the first was in Kolkata in December, in his 312th innings - judged just short of his ground when Neil Broom's accurate throw came in from the deep.

Pietersen fell in single figures, caught behind by a diving Watling as he tried to hook Neil Wagner.

Then Jonathan Trott, who had mustered just a single in the first innings, also edged behind - playing away from his body at Gillespie - to make it 67 for four.

He made his displeasure clear to much of the ground with some choice verbal self-reproach as he walked off.

Trott's reaction might accurately have summed up England's thoughts en masse at that point.

But Prior dominated a stand of 78 with Joe Root, who struggled through 51 balls for his 17 runs but nonetheless played an important support role until he fell to the part-time medium-pace of Carl Cachopa for the second time in the match.

This time, the young Yorkshireman's attempt to break the shackles by moving out of his ground to alter the length resulted only in a tame edge to second slip.

Prior went soon afterwards, another caught-behind as he tried to carve Wagner - leaving Ian Bell, dropped down the order after his first-innings hundred, to scrap for some much-needed runs with the tail.

He did his bit, but it was number 10 Swann who excelled himself with a string of boundaries in a stand of 60 in just 11 overs.

England had begun the day with their seamers - in the absence of the rested James Anderson and Steven Finn - unable to contain the opposition's seventh-wicket pair.

Watling will keep wicket, and bat in the middle order, for his country in Dunedin - but all-rounder Anderson has just three Twenty20 caps in terms of international pedigree.

Stuart Broad conceded 33 runs in six overs with the second new ball. But it was Onions who had the most eye-watering figures as Anderson, showing no ill-effects from the side strain he suffered while bowling two days ago, hit 13 fours and a six from 62 balls.

The 22-year-old from Christchurch was responsible for two fours and that six pulled dismissively over wide long-on in one Onions over which cost 22 runs.

There was no respite for England until Onions switched ends to replace Broad, and Anderson at last mistimed one to be easily caught at mid-on to give him his solitary wicket at the cost of 131 runs in 22 overs.