Dinner New Zealand 238 for 5 (Blundell 80*, Southey 3*) Trail England 9 Dec (Brooke 89, Duckett 84) 325 for 87 runs
Compared to England’s free-wheeling exploits on the first day, the first two sessions of the second day were a cat-and-mouse affair, but no less compelling, as Stokes got his bowlers in the least responsive conditions of the match. rotated A quest for success, including his own five-over spell of short balls in the hour after tea.
And it was in the midst of this onslaught that England claimed the prize wicket of Conway, who laid the foundation for New Zealand’s reply through his 51-over stand. However, he had telegraphed his willingness to go for his stroke by hitting three boundaries off Stuart Broad in the first over of the day, so shortly after the break, Stokes opted to challenge him with a special dose of bouncers. What did
This strategy targets paydirt in an over extended by two nine balls. Stokes’ eighth delivery was again short, but outside Conway’s eyeline, and instead of climbing the cut shot, he tried to paddle it to square leg. Ollie Pope was on hand to find a looping opportunity, and at 158 for 6, England had the opening they were looking for.
It became 182 after 7 five overs, when Jack Leach benefited from a long break in play after being flushed on the helmet by another short ball from Michael Bracewell-Stokes. Three balls after the restart, Bracewell went for a launch through the line, but could only correct his stroke to mid-on where Stokes was once again in action.
New Zealand started the day at 37 for 3, still 288 behind, but nightwatchman Neil Wagner kicked off his innings after he got rid of Stuart Broad’s no-ball at backward square. Broad’s next over was dispatched for a four and two sixes, both over the bridge over the backward square boundary, but that was as good as it would get.
A ball later, Broad delivered a double bluff, a full-length cutter that Wagner could only clip in mid-wicket. It was also a notable moment, as it marked the 1,000th wicket that Broad and James Anderson had taken as a fielding pair together since their first Test in Wellington in 2008.
The incoming freshman was a familiar thorn in England’s side. Mitchell scored an impressive 538 runs in last year’s Test series, including centuries in each of the three Tests. This time, however, Ollie Robinson came into the attack and struck in his first over, as Mitchell got to a perfect nip-backer outside off and was plumb lbw without scoring.
At 83 for 5, New Zealand’s innings was in danger of slipping away, but Conway was in no mood to be complacent. He drilled his first ball after drinks, from Leach, through cover for four and moved to a 98-ball half-century in Robinson’s next over, before hitting the spin of Joe Root for a crisp six. The site waved on the screen.
And at the other end, Mitchell’s partner in crime from the England tour, Blundell, was quickly on his way. His first scoring stroke was a late cut for four over Leach, and it would prove to be the signature stroke of his innings, with four of his nine fours coming in this region.
Anderson thought he would eventually dismiss Blundell for 74, but umpire Aleem Dar had to overturn his decision, and England’s frustrations were compounded by Scott Cuglijon’s first innings, which included a 53-run eighth. The wicket stand included a huge slog sweep six over Leach’s grass banks. With dinner approaching, however, Robinson produced a brilliant in-swinger to hit the top of middle and send him on his way for 20.
Andrew Miller is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket