AUCKLAND: A maiden century from opening batsman Peter Fulton put New Zealand on track for a big first innings total on day one of the third and deciding Test against England at Eden Park on Friday.
New Zealand were 250 for one at stumps with Fulton unbeaten on 124 and Kane Williamson 83 not out after a frustrating day for England's bowlers.
England skipper Alastair Cook was punished after winning the toss and making New Zealand bat on a drop-in Auckland wicket that was expected to offer his attack more pace and bounce than the lifeless pitches in Dunedin and Wellington.
Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum said it was “judgement day” for his batting line-up after they were put in for the first time this series – and they came through with flying colours.
Eden Park proved another flat track that harboured no demons, allowing them to dominate, with England's only wicket for the day coming from a rash shot by Hamish Rutherford (37) just before lunch.
While England's bowlers were tight, sending down 27 maidens through the day, the New Zealanders kept the runs ticking over thanks to the short boundaries at Eden Park, which is normally used as a rugby venue.
Fulton's century was the highlight, reviving a Test career he feared over before he was recalled for this series after more than three years in the wilderness.
“I've played a few Test matches and now I've got one (a century),” the right-hander said.
“If I'm being brutally honest, at the start of this season I thought maybe my time had come and gone.”
Fulton, whose previous best was 75, managed a 79-run partnership with Rutherford then combined with Williamson for an unbeaten 171 in New Zealand's best batting performance in the series.
The 34-year-old looked nervous as he stalled on 99 for nine deliveries before finally securing a century that included 14 fours and three sixes to a standing ovation from the home crowd.
He used up a life on 16 when a James Anderson inswinger nicked the edge of his bat and narrowly avoided the slips cordon before running away to the boundary.
Another mistake a few overs later off a short Broad delivery flew away for six.
He worked patiently with Rutherford to see off the new ball, the pair content to take just 17 runs off the first 10 overs.
Rutherford showed flashes of aggression hitting two sixes off Monty Panesar but came undone trying to do the same to Steve Finn minutes before lunch.
Williamson was uncomfortable early on but settled into a solid supporting role, notching his seventh Test half century to build on his 55 not out in the second Test in Wellington
After an energy-sapping day in the field for the tourists, Fulton said the Black Caps needed to press home their advantage in the search for a series-clinching victory.
“We've just got to get out there again tomorrow and carry on, when you get there and you get in you want to make the most of it,” he said.
While the weather forced draws in the first two Tests, clear skies are forecast until early next week in Auckland, increasing the likelihood of a result.
New Zealand, ranked eighth in Test cricket, have not won a series against England since 1999, with their sole series victory on home soil back in 1984.
A win for England, who have won the last three series against the Black Caps, would cement their position at number two in the Test rankings.