In a contest where New Zealand have largely been playing catch-up, Tom Blundell’s 138 helped the hosts close in on England’s first innings score. The visitors then propelled further ahead in the last session of the second day, heading to stumps on 79 for 2 in their second essay, holding a 98-run lead in the first Test at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
Reduced to 247 for 9, Blundell took the attack to the English bowlers in the company of No. 11 batter Blair Tickner, who offered solid support playing the second fiddle with 24-ball unbeaten stay. The duo added 59 runs for the last wicket in only 65 balls, with the tailender contributing just three runs.
The ‘keeper-bat began the attack soon after the dismissal of Tim Southee, who clipped a low full toss to the long leg fielder. Blundell danced down the track to hit Jack Leach for a six, prompting the spinner to change his length, and then creamed a couple of boundaries off the backfoot.
With James Anderson and Ollie Robinson not giving as many scoring opportunities – and when they did come, Blundell had to resort to more unconventional strokeplay to find boundaries – he latched onto Ben Stokes’s errant lines.
England could’ve ended New Zealand’s innings slightly earlier than they eventually did, but they didn’t appeal for an edge to the ‘keeper that came off Tickner’s bat. Nonetheless, the hosts could add only four runs from thereon before Tickner miscued a pull that Anderson caught with ease.
Earlier in the day, it was Devon Conway’s half-century that led the way for New Zealand’s innings that had resumed on 37 for 3. He was well supported by overnight batter Neil Wagner, and added 51 runs for the fourth wicket.
Conway got going with three boundaries off Stuart Broad in the first over of the day. Wagner cut loose soon enough, smashing three successive short balls by Broad for a boundary and two sixes. However, the pacer had the last laugh as he dished out a slower full delivery, which Wagner flicked to Ollie Robinson at mid on.
Blundell and Conway were watchful at the start of the second session, extending the sixth wicket partnership to 75 runs before the latter fell on 77 to Ben Stokes’s short-ball ploy, miscuing a pull to short leg.
Blundell nonetheless kept the scoreboard moving in the company of Michael Bracewell and added 24 runs in quick time before Bracewell’s attempt to keep attacking backfired, pulling a short ball by Jack Leach to Stokes at mid on. Reduced to 182 for 7, Blundell began the resurrection in the company of Kuggelejin.
The latter took the attack to Leach, slogsweeping the spinner for a six before going the track and hammering him for a boundary. Blundell, who brought up his half century with a single in the next over, kept rotating the strike with ease. In a fairly entertaining passsage of play, England lost a review for legbefore and Kuggelejin saved himself with a one after being declared caught behind.
However, the luck didn’t last too long and he was cleaned up by an Ollie Robinson nipbacker, on 20, in the last over before the dinner break. Courtesy Blundell’s late assault, New Zealand fell only 19 runs short of England’s first innings score, getting bundled out for 306.
England’s response in the second innings wasn’t much of a surprise, with openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett continuing with their attacking ways. The former took advantage of Wagner’s erring lines and lengths in the fourth over and crunched three boundaries through the backward point and point region.
After putting on a 52-run stand, Duckett’s stay was cut short with the batter poking at an angling away delivery from Tickner to get an edge to slips. Crawley’s end, a few overs later, was more unfortunate, as he got an inside edge to a delivery that didn’t bounce as much as it was expected to and was caught well by the ‘keeper.
Ollie Pope and Stuart Broad helped England safely to stumps, unbeaten on 14 and 6 respectively. Broad top edged a pull in the last over of the day, but neither the bowler nor the ‘keeper went for a catch due to a confusion in calling.
Brief Scores: England 325/9 decl. (Harry Brook 89, Ben Duckett 84; Neil Wagner 4-82, Tim Southee 2-71) & 79/2 (Zak Crawley 28) lead New Zealand 306 (Tom Blundell 138, Devon Conway 77, Ollie Robinson 4-54, James Anderson 3-36) by 98 runs