Cricket - England up against it

England have discovered for sure what they insist they suspected all along - that New Zealand are more than a compliant warm-up act for this summer's Ashes.

PA Sport
Cricket - England up against it
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Steven Finn took six first-innings wickets

While Australia continue to struggle in their Test series in India, England have encountered plenty more resistance in New Zealand than many experts thought likely. After day two of the final Test - a potential decider, with the series score locked at 0-0 - England were off the pace on 50 for two in reply to 443 all out at Eden Park.

Asked whether New Zealand might end up being every bit as hard to beat as Australia this year, paceman Steven Finn said: "Yes, certainly."

Finn equalled his career-best six for 125 to ensure the tourists made much better progress than Thursday, taking nine wickets for 193 to follow their one for 250 24 hours earlier.

But they then lost Alastair Cook cheaply, and also Jonathan Trott, in 25 overs of batting before stumps.

It all means that, however they fare over the final three days, there is no doubt England have come up against worthy opponents on this tour - and can expect more of the same in the return Tests back home in May, before the first of their back-to-back Ashes series.

Finn acknowledged that, but pointed out too that England were never under any illusion that the Kiwis would test their mettle. New Zealand's lowly world ranking, compared to England's second place in the International Cricket Council Test table after their historic victory in India before Christmas, persuaded many that they would coast to success.

Rain, as well as the skills of Brendon McCullum's hosts, prevented that happening in drawn Tests in Dunedin and Wellington. Here, Peter Fulton's 136 - his first Test hundred - and Kane Williamson (91) shut England out for 68 overs on a very good batting surface.

Finn added: "By no stretch of the imagination did we come over here believing that this was going to be an easy series. We know that the wickets are good over here, and we'd have to work hard to win games of cricket.

"Through the Twenty20 and one-day series, and now the Test series, it's been a pretty even contest all the way through."

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