|First Test, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, day two of five:|
|England 353: Stokes 91, Denly 74, Southee 4-88|
|New Zealand 144-4: Williamson 51, S Curran 2-28|
|New Zealand trail by 209 runs|
England continued to scrap their way into the ascendency on a hard-fought second day of the first Test against New Zealand.
Having ground their way to a competitive, if not imposing, 353 all out with the bat, their bowlers maintained the pressure to leave the hosts 144-4 at the close, trailing by 209.
Sam Curran took the key wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in the final hour, having made the initial breakthrough to dislodge Tom Latham.
Jack Leach and Ben Stokes also took wickets on another attritional day of Test cricket in Mount Maunganui, leaving Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling to watchfully see off the final few overs.
England fail to capitalise with bat
The tourists, however, will be disappointed not to have a more substantial lead, having fallen from 277-4 to 353 all out – at one stage losing four wickets for 18 runs.
Going into this two-match series, England had spoken about adopting a more measured approach to batting, the theory being the longer you keep the opposition’s bowling attack out on the field, the more they will tire and the more run scoring will become easier for the strokemakers in the middle order.
Here, though, a disciplined approach from the likes of Rory Burns, Joe Denly and Stokes on day one was squandered, and the end result was all too familiar – England once again failing to post a match-controlling first-innings total.
The mini collapse began when Stokes, who had looked in complete command of the bowling all morning on his way to 91, came down the wicket to Tim Southee and slashed hard to first slip where Ross Taylor took an excellent catch.
Ollie Pope (29) will be similarly disappointed to perish chasing a wide one, while Sam Curran (0) and Jofra Archer (4) fell cheaply as Southee took three of the four wickets to fall.
Jos Buttler, in his first Test as England’s wicketkeeper since displacing Jonny Bairstow, intelligently shepherded the tail from there – putting on 52 with Jack Leach for the ninth wicket before carving a simple catch to Mitchell Santner at deep cover.
Stuart Broad lasted just 10 balls, meaning England fell to 353 all out on a pitch where they might have expected 400-plus.
“England would have started the day saying they were on course for 430+ so they were restrained a little by New Zealand,” said Test Match Special commentator Jeremy Coney.
Curran leads England’s bowling attack
New Zealand, though, made similar mistakes having adopted the same tactics.
Jeet Raval and Taylor were particularly culpable as they played horrible shots to pick out fielders at mid-wicket and on the square leg boundary respectively.
Williamson played nicely for his 31st Test half-century, though England will be cheered by the half-chances they created with clever fields designed to nullify the opposition captain’s strengths through gully and third man.
Twice Williamson escaped playing chipped cuts through that area before he was surprised by a lifting delivery from Curran which suggested the wicket will become two-paced the further this match goes on.
Opener Latham, who like Williamson is ranked in the world’s top 10 for Test batsmen, was also dismissed by Surrey all-rounder Curran – trapped lbw to one which straightened.
Leach, too, will be pleased with his wicket. While it was gifted by a horrible shot, he will know New Zealand is not a country which traditionally favours spin bowling.
None of the last 101 wickets taken by New Zealand in their home country have fallen to spin – the last one being when England last toured in early 2018.
Root had a good day – analysis
by former England batsman Mark Ramprakash on Test Match Special
Joe Root has had a good day as captain. He’s got a real vote of confidence from Ashley Giles (England’s director of men’s cricket) and they’ve talked about building a team for the next Ashes series down under.
At times in the past you’ve felt he’s been one step behind the game but he’s rotated his bowlers really well today.
He brought Sam Curran on when it wasn’t working with the new ball and he struck early.
He got Jack Leach into the attack early and that will give him confidence and make him think he’s a wicket-taking option.
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