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Rain gives England chance of a draw

By David Clough

England's ambition will be curtailed but distinctly more achievable when they return to try to close out a series-clinching stalemate against New Zealand on the final day at Headingley.

When Alastair Cook and Adam Lyth began the hosts' second innings, it was on a highly improbable mission to rewrite Test cricket history in pursuit of 455 to pull off a new all-time highest run chase.

After almost two full sessions of rain, instead of another 158 overs in which to turn 44 without loss into a distant victory, they need only stretch out their 10 wickets for three sessions to draw the match - and win the Investec series 1-0.

The notion that they could still press for 2-0 ought not to persist long into Tuesday.

A required rate of little more than four an over in a maximum 98 would not be out of keeping at all with the tempo set by their opponents over the last two weeks, and occasionally themselves.

But the risk-reward ratio favours conservatism, however outrageously Cook's ultra-adventurous opposite number Brendon McCullum chooses to dangle the carrot.

In the circumstances, with a forecast long suggesting a significant proportion of remaining playing time would be spirited away, McCullum might have reason to reproach himself for delaying his declaration until England's task - approaching lunch on day four - extended by 37 runs the most ever made to win in the fourth innings in almost 140 years of Test cricket.

Cook and Lyth comfortably negotiated 13 overs before light early-afternoon rain moved in and never relented to allow any prospect of further play.

On an increasingly cloudy morning, BJ Watling had quickly added 20 to his overnight 100 and with Mark Craig (58no) taking their seventh-wicket stand to 53 before Joe Root's neat catch away to his right off Jimm Anderson accounted for the centurion.

True to McCullum's ethos, New Zealand needed only 16 overs to add another 116 for the loss of two wickets with Tim Southee and Craig contining the rush of boundaries to top 400.

Belfast Telegraph

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