Captain Cook baffled by slow starts as England scrape a draw Down Under

 
Julian Harris
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ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook is mystified as to why his team keeps making poor starts to Test series’ after they relied on a stubborn batting resistance to avoid defeat against New Zealand yesterday.

Cook’s men were bowled out for 167 in the opening innings of the first Test in Dunedin, yet a heroic final day half-century from nightwatchman Steven Finn contributed to a draw with the tourists ending on 421-6.

It is the fourth time in a row that England have failed to reach 200 runs in the first innings of a tour’s opening Test match.

“I’m not quite sure we know the reason for it, it’s certainly frustrating,” Cook said.

“You know how important it is to get off to a good start, so it is a bit of a concern, it’s something we need to address.

“If you give any side a start like we gave New Zealand, then you’re always clawing it back. I thought we did well to claw it back and it’s great to go to Wellington at 0-0 but in the bigger picture, we need to start better than that.”

Cook reached a second innings score of 116 on the fourth day, before being caught behind and sending Finn in as a nightwatchman. Yet Finn’s innings ended up stretching well into the final day, as the seam bowler stayed at the crease for nearly five hours.

“I’m not sure we all knew he had that in him,” Cook joked. “I think a few of us were bribing him with crates of wine if he batted a certain amount of time and he’s probably put us in quite a bit of debt.”

Finn outlasted Nick Compton, who scored his first Test century, as well as Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, before finally being caught lbw by spinner Bruce Martin, with 56 on the board.

“I haven’t done it for years,” Finn said, referring to his half-century. “So it was a bit alien holding the bat up, but good fun.”

Ian Bell and wicketkeeper Matt Prior added 49 runs between them as the hosts ran out of time.

New Zealand had declared on 460-9 in their first and only innings, taking a huge 293-run lead into the second innings. Yet they could not hammer home the advantage with the ball. The second Test at Wellington begins on Thursday.

TROUBLE ON THE ROAD
England tours: 1st innings 1st Tests
■ November 2012, v India, 191 runs

■ March 2012, v Sri Lanka, 193 runs

■ January 2012, v Pakistan, 192 runs

In England: 1st innings 1st Tests
■ July 2012, v South Africa, 385 runs

■ May 2012, v West Indies, 398 runs

■ July 2011, v India, 474 runs