Like the giant statue that supposedly straddled the mouth of the harbour at Rhodes in ancient times, Peter Fulton doesn’t move his feet much.
The six-foot-five batsman, the man they call “Two-Metre Peter”, drafted back into the New Zealand side for this series after a period of over three years away from the Test arena, had a typically nervy start to his innings.
Rather than qualifying as one of the seven wonders of the world, his technique is such that you spend the first hour of his innings wondering why the hell he hasn’t gotten out yet. The feet are resolutely planted; balls wide of off-stump are wafted at with shots that constitute neither attack nor defence, with a lot of daylight visible between bat and body – enough space that you could sail a fleet of triremes through if you were an opportunistic invader intent on plunder. This is how he got out at Wellington and Dunedin, back in his crease and poking at deliveries he really should have left alone.
He is the complete opposite of his opening partner, Hamish Rutherford – broad-shouldered and heavy-footed where Rutherford is wiry and nimble, with an almost lumbering rigidity in contrast to Rutherford’s fluid economy of movement. Certainly Rutherford makes more pleasing shapes when batting – the way he leant into a beautiful drive down the ground off Jimmy Anderson, all crisp timing and high right elbow, was a particularly memorable example. Rutherford might have talent in spades but, in a similar vein to his captain, Brendon McCullum, he is also a scrapper, and has the bruises to prove it.
Fulton goes about his business in quieter fashion, a slight frown on his face that suggests perplexity, as though he is grappling with some insoluble problem but determined to battle his way through it nevertheless. Part of this is no doubt nerves, and the pressure that comes with that need to nail down your place in the side. The England bowlers know this, getting in his ear at the earliest opportunity to try to unsettle him.
Then, someone will serve him up a bad ball and the boundaries will start coming and the confidence will start growing. Straight balls will be clipped off the pads; balls outside off-stump will be left alone or pulled to the midwicket boundary, as he starts using his bulk and his slight tendency to lean towards the off-side to his advantage. His physical strength becomes less a leaden weight than a battering ram.
By the time he went to tea on 95, the transformation was complete. Stuart Broad and Steven Finn could only look on in despair, and it’s to Jimmy Anderson’s immense credit that he managed to sustain the aggression with which he ran in on a wicket that gave him nothing. Monty Panesar too, came in for some fearful stick from both Fulton and Williamson, and earlier on from Rutherford, who was the only wicket to fall all day.
I wondered what was going through Fulton’s mind as he approached his maiden Test century. He’s been around the game for a long time. Prior to this, his highest Test score had come in his second match, against the West Indies at the Basin Reserve back in March 2006. He made 75 that day, and lost his wicket with – yep, you guessed it – a prod outside off-stump, feet going nowhere, an outside edge snaffled by the keeper. But all that seemed behind him now. Wiping the sweat from his eyes, forced to wait nine balls on 99, he could be forgiven for looking a little nervous now that that long wait could be about to end. End it did, with a scampered single off Panesar, and a pumped fist in celebration. Whatever the nature of that insoluble problem, maybe this innings will have provided the answer.
Alastair Cook made the same mistake as Brendon McCullum did at Wellington in choosing to bowl first – he was tempted by the siren call of a wicket that was supposed to seam but didn’t; that was supposed to offer more bounce for his quicks but instead gave them deliveries that, even with the new ball in the evening session, died on their way through to the keeper. The only spin on offer was that employed by Steven Finn who reckoned afterwards England had done a good job in “only” allowing New Zealand to put 250 runs on the board in perfect batting conditions. As an attempt to take the positives from a long, frustrating day, it was a pretty desperate one.
Fulton and Williamson’s partnership is currently worth 171; Williamson will resume on 83, Fulton on 124.
It took an earthquake in 226 BC to finally topple the Colossus of Rhodes. With Peter Fulton, it could easily be another ill-advised waft outside off-stump. Until then, and against all expectation, this is one giant who so far has managed to stand firm.