England were unapologetic for their ultra-cautious approach to the second Test at Headingley even though a poor weather forecast for the last day threatens to deny them a 2-0 series win.
After declining the opportunity on Sunday to make New Zealand follow on, Alastair Cook extended England's second innings well into the afternoon session on Monday before declaring on 287 for five, by which time the lead was 467 and any realistic chance of defeat had long since been removed.
That was confirmed as New Zealand slipped to 158 for six, with Graeme Swann collecting four more wickets on the wearing pitch to take his tally to eight in the match – the best figures by a spinner in a Headingley Test since Derek Underwood's 10 for 82 against Australia in 1972, and still with power to add. But England's hopes of claiming the extra half-hour to complete victory on the fourth day were scuppered when bad light stopped play with up to 14 overs remaining.
That means a repeat of the rain that washed out the first day of the Test on Friday, which is a distinct possibility according to meteorologists, would deny England victory – and with it the chance to pull slightly further ahead of India in second place in the world Test rankings.
But Jonathan Trott, who shared a second-wicket stand of 134 with Cook and went on to make 76 after his captain had scored his 25th Test century, insisted that even that scenario would leave England with no regrets.
"I think we got it spot on," he said. "We got the total we wanted in the time we wanted, and we've got six wickets, so it's been a good day of Test cricket. You can't pay too much attention to it," he said of the possibility of rain returning to the Yorkshire spring.
"When you're 1-0 up, you can afford to let the game take its course and not chase it – play how you normally would, and not let the weather dictate. We didn't want to bat last on a dry pitch, you've got to stay on top when you're on top. Make it difficult for them batting last; that was the idea."
He also explained his slow batting with Cook on Sunday evening, when he crawled to 11 from 69 balls. "It was important to get to stumps and re-assess. You can always catch up, and we batted well today. It was a tricky part to get through."
Cook's century, which extends his lead as England's most prolific century-maker to three, was his seventh in only 11 Tests as captain. "Amazing," Trott said. "Some say captaincy can be a burden but it can spur some people on and drive them to be better."
Joe Root charmed another disappointing Headingley crowd of around 6,000 with a quick 28, including one impish reverse sweep, but there was another failure for Ian Bell and more pain for Nick Compton, who was unable to field for most of the day after suffering injury – straining a muscle in his chest as he threw the ball in – to add to the insults he had to endure after his double flop with the bat.
One former England captain, Michael Vaughan, has led the calls for Compton to be dropped for the Ashes but another, Andrew Strauss, came to the defence of his former Middlesex team-mate in his new role as an occasional Sky pundit, insisting that "people are making a big deal out of nothing".
Ross Taylor, who top-scored with a determined 70 for New Zealand before he was yorked by Swann late in the day, revealed that he had been struck three times in the same area on his right shoulder by Steve Finn, who again bowled with hostility on a two-paced pitch. "A few of the boys are commenting that I've got a little tattoo," Taylor said.
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