Cricket - Anderson strikes but Rutherford builds New Zealand huge lead

First Test, University Oval, Dunedin - Stumps, day three - New Zealand (402-7, 108 overs: Rutherford 171, Fulton 55, McCullum 44*, Anderson 4-108) lead England (167 all out, 55 overs: Trott 45, Wagner 4-42, Martin 4-43) by 235 runs.

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Cricket - Anderson strikes but Rutherford builds New Zealand huge lead
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England's James Anderson (R) reacts after taking the wicket of New Zealand's Hamish Rutherford (L) for 171 runs during the third day of the first test at the University Oval in Dunedin March 8, 2013 (Reuters)

England turned in an improved performance with the ball but still lost ground to New Zealand before rain cut short play on day three of the first Test in Dunedin.

James Anderson, visibly angry and frustrated, gave England the faintest hope of a comeback with four wickets, including three in an inspired spell with the second new ball.

But Hamish Rutherford’s sensational 171, allied to some quick-hitting cameos from Brendon McCullum (44 not out) and the rest of the middle order meant that New Zealand reached 402 for seven wickets building up a 235-run lead by the time that rain ended play five overs after the tea interval.

England were better than they had been on the previous day – they could scarcely have been worse – but Rutherford in particular set the tempo in the morning with a selection of crisp drives, cuts and powerful shots wide of mid on.

He did not look like a debutant, racing nervelessly towards his century.

Peter Fulton brought up his own fifty, but having been subject to incessant sledging from the England fielders, led most vocally by Anderson, he did eventually fall on 55 to a loose drive, the inside edge pouched by Matt Prior.

Not that it stopped Rutherford – who reached his ton the next over with two superb fours, and continued at the same, easy pace as England struggled.

Kane Williamson batted slowly but contributed 24 in a second-wicket stand worth 91 before he let a quicker ball from Monty Panesar slip through his defences.

The second new ball was perhaps England’s last chance of getting on terms with their hosts, and they struck with the first ball, Rutherford spooning a catch to midwicket to give Anderson his second wicket.

His 171 was the seventh-highest innings by a debutant in the history of Test cricket, four more than the entire England team had managed in their first innings.

But England’s failings were exposed when later in the same over Joe Root shelled a regulation slip catch offered by Brownlie. He was only in at third slip because Kevin Pietersen had been off the field with a knee problem, but it continued a long-standing trend of a drop in England’s catching standards in Test cricket.

Brownlie and Taylor scored quickly, until the latter, on his 29th birthday, offered a slip catch to Jonathan Trott off Anderson.

Brownlie followed, castled by Anderson via an inside edge.

Stuart Broad, wicketless since the third Test against South Africa back in August 2012, then got in on the act, BJ Watling leaving a straight one and losing his off stump.

Tim Southee bludgeoned 25 in 21 balls as Broad and Steven Finn served up several hittable deliveries, until he missed a straight delivery from Broad.

Bruce Martin then played the anchor role as McCullum scored freely, but the misty drizzle, which had been in the air before tea, finally forced the players off 32 overs short of the scheduled close.

With two days to play and rain a possibility on day four, England will hope that they can save the match with an improved batting display, but the questions over their preparation and performance so far in this series persist.

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