New Zealand is a small country with a matching small population and a proportionally smaller cricket community. I once heard someone remark that in New Zealand, to call Rugby a religion just doesn’t seem to do justice to Rugby. Not so cricket. But the Black Caps have a batsman who would look at home in the scrum for the All Blacks. Peter Fulton is a giant of a man with a long reach and plenty of leverage and he has put in a giant performance in the third and deciding Test against England, in Auckland.
New Zealand are on the verge of beating England in this Test match and this is in no small part due to “Two Metre Peter” Fulton. Fulton was the backbone of New Zealand’s first innings with 136 runs. As a result of a fine effort in the field, New Zealand held a massive lead of 239 runs. Batting again, rather than enforcing the follow-on, the Kiwis had slumped to 3-8 and was teetering on a disaster. My impression from the other side of the ditch is that New Zealand has had a long history of putting in a strong first half of a Test and capitulating in the second half. Here was New Zealand with a golden opportunity to beat England and in danger of throwing it away.
To put into perspective how much a win would mean, consider this: New Zealand has won just eight Tests against England. Ever. They have won just three Test series and the last time was in 1999, in England. And for that matter, New Zealand has won very little in the way of Tests against anyone in the past decade.
Late on day three, Fulton steadied the ship and dug in with Brownlie as they held out to stumps. On day four, Fulton added almost 100 runs at around a run a ball. He got better and better, finishing with 110, which included 5 sixes and 14 fours, as he and McCullum (67* from 53 balls) took the game way beyond England.
Fulton has put in a lion-hearted effort which is astonishing when you look at his career. He is just over 34 years of age and prior to this Test had played just 12 Tests since his debut in 2006. His average was a shade over 25 and he had made no centuries and just two fifties. Prior to this series, he hadn’t played a Test in over three years, not since December 2009. It seems with Fulton, it never rains but is pours. Many moons ago, he turned his first 1st Class century into a triple. And for the record, Fulton is actually 198 cm (six foot, six inches) but 1.98 does not rhyme with “Peter”.
New Zealand needs just six wickets in Auckland tomorrow to win the Test and the series. The Auckland weather looks like it will hold and the forecast chance of rain is 0%. No prizes for picking the man-of-the-match – Peter Fulton has stood head and shoulders above the rest.