Go-Slow England Feel the Squeeze; (1) Hard Going: Kyle Mills Celebrates after Bowling Ian Bell for Just and Michael Vaughan (below) Enjoys Reaching His Half-Century (2) Shouldering Arms: Kevin Pietersen Lets Another Go through to the Keeper (above), Much to Spinner Daniel Vettoris Annoyance

Article excerpt

Byline: David Lloyd

ENGLAND dug themselves into a deep hole here today and now face a hugestruggle to emerge from the First Test with a draw, never mind much credit.

On the plus side, Michael Vaughan's side lost only four wickets when it lookedat one stage as though they might be bowled out by New Zealand.

But their rate of progress to 286 for six was so painfully slow that 93 oversproduced only 199 runs.

Kevin Pietersen, of all people, went within a couple of overs of battingthrough an entire, two-hour session without hitting a single boundary andfinally fell for 42 to his 131st delivery.

After three days England still trail by 184 runs and they could yet be upagainst it this weekend, especially if Seddon Park's desperately dreary pitchstarts to break up. But, whatever the result, their performance so far has beenat odds with Vaughan's pre-series talk of a "vibrant, excited" side.

Enough has been said about England's bowling. Today, New Zealand showed themhow to put together a disciplined performance in the field while spinnersDaniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel produced excellent spells.

But arguably the best bit of spinning came not from those two but out ofPietersen's mouth. "Our guys batted brilliantly," he claimed. "I think we putin a great performance." Yet from the moment late yesterday when England sentin Matthew Hoggard as a nightwatchman they were adopting an overly-defensivestrategy.

And so it proved as the batsmen retreated further into their shells Only whenPietersen hit his third ball for six did it look as though things might change.But one of the world's most exciting strokeplayers faced another 90 ballsbefore collecting a boundary. How can anything account for that? Although itwas Vettori and Patel who really put the squeeze on England, pacemen ChrisMartin and Kyle Mills played their part during the morning session withaggression and accuracy.

Vaughan did manage to steer a boundary to reach 50 before pulling Mills foranother four. …