Watling's second half-century gives Cook and Co plenty to ponder ahead of first Test as England lose tour match
David Clough, Press Association
07:33 GMT, 2 March 2013
07:33 GMT, 2 March 2013
England suffered an unexpected defeat as BJ Watling's second half-century of the match proved too much for the tourists at the Queenstown Event Centre ground.
Watling (89no) followed his unbeaten 66 in the first innings with another telling contribution to help a New Zealand XI chase 334 to prevail in a tight finish with eight balls and three wickets to spare.
England, in their first red-ball fixture of a double-Ashes year in this warm-up for the first of three Tests in Dunedin, were losing in a first-class tour match for the first time in almost seven years – the last defeat came against an India board XI in Vadodara.
Trudging off: England captain Alastair Cook alongside Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad react after losing to the New Zealand XI
Watling finished with eight fours and two sixes from 122 balls, in a run chase which featured three other individual scores between 40 and 50 as England – without rested frontline seamers James Anderson and Steven Finn – paid for an unconvincing performance with the ball in particular.
Graham Onions lost his way, and it is hard to see him being considered as the go-to back-up Test seamer if needed after recording match figures of one for 213.
Inconsistent batting from the top six was also part of the problem – with Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton all short of runs as the Test series looms.
There was no particular shame in losing to a team in which all but Carl Cachopa have international experience, and five – including wicketkeeper Watling – are in the squad to face England again next week.
It is hardly the start Alastair Cook would have wanted nonetheless as his side seek to follow up their historic series win in India with more success here over the next three weeks.
After England declared on their overnight 256 for nine, progress was initially unremarkable for both sides.
Openers Hamish Rutherford and Tom Latham began the chase with their second stand of 56 in this match, at four-an-over on a cloudy morning which yielded no immediate headway for Stuart Broad and Onions with the new ball.
Rutherford even climbed into an upper-cut which deposited a short ball from Broad high over point and into the enclosure in front of the players' pavilion for six.
Soon afterwards, Broad hit the same batsman on the head with a sharp bouncer.
But it was first-change Chris Woakes who made the first breakthrough when Rutherford cut him into the hands of point.
Woakes was rewarded for a spell which was much-improved from his first-innings efforts, and Broad also struck in the next over when he switched to a fuller length and bowled a static Cachopa for a third-ball duck.
Onions looked a slightly more likely wicket-taker too for a time, but no one could find a way past Latham or Neil Broom up to lunch.
Their stand had extended to 64 by the time Swann got Latham two short of his half-century, apparently caught-behind as he tried to sweep.
Then with the first ball after mid-session drinks, Broad saw off Broom lbw playing no shot.
When Dean Brownlie went too before tea, neatly caught low at second slip by Swann off the returning Woakes, the hosts were running out of frontline batsmen.
But Watling and Corey Anderson, who had battered England for a rapid century stand in the first innings, were once more in occupation.
They almost repeated the dose too, in a partnership of 82 this time which took the hosts to well within 100 runs of their target with more than 20 overs remaining.
Onions had suffered at Anderson's hands yesterday, and did so again today in two overs which cost 23 runs and contained three no-balls.
A much-needed wicket came from an unlikely source in Joe Root, who did Anderson in the flight as he aimed another big hit to leg and was bowled.
Swann, off the field for several overs previously, returned only to almost immediately drop Watling on 47 off Broad at gully.
It proved a costly miss – because, even after Jimmy Neesham had pulled a Root long-hop straight into Broad's hands at square-leg, Watling saw the job through against the second new ball in an unbroken half-century stand alongside Neil Wagner.