England were still clinging on precariously on the final morning of the third Test but the dismissal of Joe Root, to the first delivery with the second new ball shortly before lunch, set them back after Root and Ian Bell had batted diligently through 28 overs.
Root made 29 as England reached 158 for five at the interval. Bell, playing with great restraint and concentration, was still there, having made 41 from 182 balls and been dropped in the slips in the last over of the session. Two balls later, Jonny Bairstow, on two, was also dropped, both chances off Trent Boult. Hopes now rested on this pair to take the game beyond the afternoon session.
England's final day of the winter had glorious weather but another sparse crowd. There was an air of expectation in the New Zealand team that this might prove one of the finest days in their cricket history. But England were not about to give up the ghost without a fight. Much, though, rested on the resilience of Bell and Root, and on what progress New Zealand could make before the second new ball became available.
Brendon McCullum was determined not to let the batsmen settle into a rhythm, rotating his bowlers in an attempt to find a combination that worked, setting his usual imaginative fields, and never releasing the pressure. After Kane Williamson finished the over in which he had claimed Steve Finn with the last ball of the fourth day, McCullum turned to Tim Southee.
He immediately tried to bang one in to Root, the batsman comfortably pulling the day's first boundary. Williamson was allowed a couple more overs before being replaced by Boult, who immediately beat Bell outside off stump, to gasps from the crowd.
With no early success, Southee was withdrawn from the attack to ponder the new ball, and Williamson was accorded another over in his stead before Bruce Martin came on at the southern end to replace him. Still there was no sign of a breakthrough and Bell was able to cut Martin through point for his first boundary and then Root eased the same bowler off the back foot through extra cover.
By drinks, Root had caught up Bell and taken 100 deliveries fewer to do so. Run rates though had long since become an irrelevance: it was all about time.
In the first innings, Matt Prior's dismissal four balls before a new ball was due triggered a collapse that ended the innings, so it was vital for England's chances that the partnership was not broken at least until it was taken this time. Fifteen minutes before the interval, with the score 150 for four, the umpires handed the new ball to Boult.
Boult's first ball, bang on the spot and swinging in to Root, did the trick, a beautiful piece of left-arm swing bowling that had Root lbw. Worse might have followed for England. In Boult's next over, Bell, pushing, offered a sharp chance to Dean Brownlie at fourth slip, and two balls beyond that Williamson could not cling on to another testing catch in the gully.
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