Spin was king on a topsy-turvey third day at Old Trafford today. The left arm spin of Daniel Vettori and Monty Panesar combined to propel this 2nd npower Test match along at a rapid rate with both sides still in with a great chance of victory.
Vettori's five-wicket haul in the morning put the skids under a miserable England batting effort, before Panesar did likewise to the visitors in the afternoon. England's fightback continued in to the evening session, with Michael Vaughan's side on 76 for 1 requiring a further 218 runs to win with two days remaining.
It was the New Zealand skipper who sparked a dreadful England collapse in the morning. With just 8 runs added, Vettori found the edge of Kevin Pietersen's bat, with Ross Taylor taking the catch at slip. Pietersen looked uncharacteristically out of sorts, surviving a good lbw shout, and was fortunate to escape with a bat/pad decision off Iain O'Brien, with only the bowler appealing for the catch.
Shortly afterwards, Ian Bell's attempted force off O'Brien also found Taylor at slip, and further wickets quickly followed in the face of great control and variation from Vettori. Collingwood failed to read an arm ball , and Ambrose gave Taylor further catching practice at slip after edging a real snorter to give Vettori his fifth wicket. When Panesar fell to a great diving catch by wicket keeper McCullum, England – incredibly – were still two runs away from saving the follow on.
The only resistance came from Stuart Broad who put bat to ball with great effect in an innings of 30, but England finished 179 runs in arrears when the Nottinghamshire bowler was last man out, caught at deep mid-off by Patel.
This action merely presaged a remarkable afternoon, with Panesar causing havoc from the Brian Statham End, claiming his third five-wicket haul in Old Trafford Tests.
Jimmy Anderson struck first when Aaron Redmond edged to Collingwood at slip, and then it was the Monty show, with Panesar winning four lbw appeals to send back How, Marshall, Taylor and McCullum. In between Vettori swept to Broad at deep backward square leg, and New Zealand were 91 for 6.
Mills edged behind to give Panesar Test-best figures of 6 for 37, and Sidebottom claimed two wickets to end the innings, with the injured Flynn still absent.
It was a great fightback by England, and the hosts kept up the momentum gained during the afternoon in to the final session.
Chasing an unlikely target of 294 runs to win, England's openers played far more positively with Strauss and Cook posting an opening stand of 60 runs. Cook went to a bat/pad catch at short leg off Vettori, but Vaughan and Strauss continued to take the game to New Zealand to reach the close at 76 for 1.
It has left the game fascinatingly poised, with both sides believing they can force a result on day four.
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