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Stalemate in Queenstown

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3 March 2009.

Queenstown, third day:
England Lions 493-5 dec (Trott 138 not out, Patel 101, Key 89, Wright 55, Moore 43) New Zealand A 375-3 (How 161 not out, Franklin 83 not out, Ingram 73)

By Charles Randall at the Frankton oval

ENGLAND Lions discovered out that an out-of-form Test batsman can be a very dangerous and frustrating opponent when Jamie How grafted through the third day to finish on 161 and save the follow-on with plenty to spare.

How, Rob Key’s opposite number as captain, did indeed look out of touch as he survived hair-raising moments in the morning against Mark Davies and Robbie Joseph, but interspersed with mistakes he unzipped some classy strokes.

Peter Ingram, an Auckland woodwork teacher, took his one chance to impress at this level in his eye-catching season for Central Districts, a province coached by the former England man Dermot Reeve, and the Test all-rounder James Franklin, returning after injury, helped himself to a 61-ball fifty in the evening.

The net result was that the Lions took only two wickets all day while bowling well, especially the Durham newcomer Davies, and not even a steady flow of light aircraft flying low over the boundary to land at neighbouring Frankton airport could disturb the New Zealanders.

The saw-toothed crags of The Remarkables were bathed in sunshine, and Davies said: "Even in the last five overs the lads were still gazing round at the scenery. It’s a beautiful place to play cricket even after a hard day like that."

Before the ECB mandarins leap to their telephones, it can be reported that admiring the scenery was not to blame for the Lions’ five turfed catches, none of them easy. Davies, with his ability to ’work on’
batsmen, yielded only 48 runs off his 23 overs for two wickets and two dropped catches.

Luke Wright might have had a couple of wickets if chances had stuck in the slip cordon. He needed two spells off the field to ease a sore kneee and once tumbled over trying to bowl at his quickest. After his bright 55 with the bat, he certainly stayed in the game.

Wright had Ingram spilled in the morning when Jonathan Trott dived at first slip to hold what would have been a brilliant low catch if the ball had not been jarred out of his hand. How burst an edge through Samit Patel’s hands at second slip when 88 and, on 126, he miscued a pull at Davies high towards square leg where Gareth Batty, running back and diving, nearly triumphed. This proved to be the last chance of rocking the New Zealanders’ innings as, crucially, the Lions failed to break through with the second new ball.

The easing pitch still offered movement, but the loss of pace gave the bowlers little help. Batty had the left-hander Franklin slicing past Trott at slip and occasionally miscuing, but the margin of error for his off-spin was very narrow. Anything loose was usually dispatched.

How, who toured England with the senior side last year, stayed put without looking infallible, and the only minor victory for Lions was giving Kane Williamson an ordeal at the crease. The New Zealand
Under-19 captain adged his first ball for four through Liam Plunkett’s hands at gully -- with Davies the unlucky bowler -- and struggled for an hour and a quarter for 22 before he was bowled advancing down the pitch to Batty.

The weather remained beautiful all day, but a tired Lions side had had their fill of How by the end.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images