WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Rain came to the aid of a battling New Zealand cricket team Sunday, washing out play between lunch and tea on the fourth day of the second test against England.
New Zealand was 153-2 when the rain began during the lunch break, trailing England by 58 runs after being forced to follow on 211 behind on the first innings. The home team was bowled out Saturday for 254 in reply to England's first innings of 465.
Kane Williamson reached a stubborn half century during the first session on Sunday in partnerships of 56 for the second wicket with Peter Fulton and 72, unbroken, for the third wicket with Ross Taylor (36 not out).
Fulton was out for 45 early on the fourth day but his was the only wicket to fall as New Zealand battled to save the match.
Umpires Rod Tucker of Australia and Asad Rauf of Pakistan inspected the ground shortly before the scheduled tea break, when the light rain that had fallen during the session had abated. They ruled that tea should be taken at the normal time and that a further inspection would be made when play was due to resume at 3.30.
Playing hours can be extended and most of the time lost Sunday can be recouped.
But the rain helped New Zealand to a small extent and it now has four sessions remaining to save a match England has commanded since being sent in to bat on the opening day.
New Zealand resumed its second innings Sunday at 77-1, still trailing England by 134 runs. Opener Hamish Rutherford was out for 15 before stumps Saturday but Williamson and Fulton carried New Zealand to the close of play in relative comfort.
The home team might still have joined New Zealand farmers in praying for rain with so much of the match remaining and England so firmly in control. New Zealand's North Island has been in the grip of its longest dry spell since 1947, and the showers that fell Sunday, and are expected again Monday, are not thought to be drought-breaking.
New Zealand will need more of the stoic batting it has showed in the first session of the fourth day to save the match and prevent England taking a 1-0 lead into the last match of the three-test series in Auckland.
Fulton batted with notable patience and care to reach 45, sticking at the crease for two and a half hours before he fell to the first rash shot of his innings. He flashed at a short delivery from James Anderson, well wide of off-stump and edged a simple catch to Alastair Cook at second slip.
Fulton and Williamson had added 56 in just under two hours for the second wicket, providing an example of the sort of fighting stand New Zealand will need to keep the match and series alive.
Williamson and Taylor continued the battle, reaching their 50-run partnership from 117 balls. The key battle of the morning was between the New Zealand batsmen and England spinner Monty Panesar, who began to find turn from scuffing and footmarks left in the first three days.
Panesar was thought likely to be a major player in the match after New Zealand left-arm spinner Bruce Martin found turn and took four wickets during England's first innings. But the Englishman struggled to settle into a productive line and length.
He chose to bowl over the wicket to the right-handers, pitching outside leg stump and removing the possibility of an lbw.
Panesar had 1-40 at tea, while Anderson, who claimed the only wicket of the first session, had 1-27.