If the bowlers were made to toil for their wickets, England’s tough luck continued with the bat in hand too as they finished Day 2 of the Hamilton Test with 39 for 2, still trailing New Zealand by 336 runs. BJ Watling and debutant Daryl Mitchell’s defiant fifties formed the bedrock of New Zealand’s 375, following Tom Latham’s Day 1 century, that put the hosts in a commanding position on a rain-free second day of the series decider.
Despite a bit of a cloud cover at the start, the morning wasn’t as gloomy for England though. After Jofra Archer completed his pending over from last evening and Latham added one more to his boundary count with a gorgeous on-drive, Stuart Broad got a length ball to nip back in from around the wicket angle to the left-hander and knocked back the off-stump as the batsman shouldered arms.
England would have had another success within the next 15 minutes – and Sam Curran his first – had the edge from new batsman Watling not fallen just an inch short of England’s new keeper Ollie Pope. But, after a fruitless day yesterday, Curran hit the deck harder on the second morning and opened his account with a well-directed bouncer at Henry Nicholls who holed out straight to Broad at backward square leg.
The following session and a half was a classic example of how to survive in Test match cricket. England toned down the aggression, surprisingly, and Watling dropped anchor in his typical fashion. Cautious at the start, debutant Mitchell grew in confidence with every ball he faced and gave Watling solid company as the pair kept England at bay for the rest of the morning, taking their team to 248 for 5 at Lunch.
Joe Root even managed to get the ball changed, and then brought back on Ben Stokes despite his knee injury scare on an opening day, but they couldn’t breach New Zealand’s, and Watling’s, defenses. The tourists took the new ball as soon as it was made available and brought Archer back into the attack. Broad briefly rekindled some hopes with a close LBW shout against Mitchell but neither did England have a review left to challenge the not-out call and nor was it going to hit the stumps in hindsight.
England let all their pacers except Stokes have a crack at the new ball but to no avail
Frustrated and desperate in equal measure, England – more like Stokes and Archer – resorted to the short-ball ploy with a crowded leg-side field. But nothing that they did in the first hour after Lunch would get them a breakthrough as Watling and Mitchell – in no hurry whatsoever to step on the accelerator – continued their slow and steady collection of runs. By the drinks break, the pair had added only 25 runs to the team’s tally.
Mitchell continued to impress in his very first Test innings with some glorious drives. And as the run-scoring improved in the hour after drinks, he outscored his senior partner in registering their respective half-centuries as he brought up his maiden one with a pull to deep midwicket off another one of Stokes’s short balls. Watling, though, matched up in no time, taking New Zealand past 300 with his boundary shot to his fifty.
Broad then brought all his experience the fore to give England the much-needed lift off by taking out both the half-centurions on either side of the session break. Watling fell at the stroke of Tea, and against the run of play. Broad’s short ball around off caught him completely off-guard and, in his bid to fend it away, Watling popped a sitter to Rory Burns at gully that bought curtains on his gritty, 192-ball effort.
Shortly after Tea, Broad rushed Mitchell into his pull shot who ended up offering a simple catch to Archer at fine leg and fell well short of what could have been a century in his first Test innings.
Broad thought he’d got his fifth too when he went up in a loud LBW appeal against Mitchell Santner. And yet again, on evidence from replays, England would have wasted a review if they had one left.
Southee made his intentions clear from the onset, going at a run a ball, or over until Chris Woakes cut short his fun and had him caught behind on 18, that included three boundary hits, soon after New Zealand went past 350.
Santner took it upon himself to up the ante and hit Archer for two boundaries in an over and then two sixes on either side of the Southee dismissal. Archer though had his revenge when he lured Santner into a pull and had him top-edging to Woakes at deep square leg. Neil Wagner bagged a golden duck as New Zealand folded for 375 in their first innings, losing their second half for just 60 runs.
However, New Zealand managed to turn the tables on England quickly with two early wickets in the final hour of play. Southee trapped Dominic Sibley plumb LBW on just four and Matt Henry had Joe Denly caught behind in a stunning diving effort from the ‘keeper.
Rory Burns did enjoy his fair share of luck though, getting two lives – dropped on 10 by Ross Tayor who shelled a sitter in slips and then on 19, when Jeet Raval at midwicket spilled a tough chance despite putting in a dive to his left. He managed to survive the day – unbeaten on 24 – with skipper Root (6 not out) for company.
Brief scores: England 39/2 (Rory Burns 24*; Matt Henry 1-10, Tim Southee 1-24) trail New Zealand 375 (Tom Latham 105, Daryl Mitchell 73, BJ Watling 55, Ross Taylor 53; Stuart Broad 4-73, Chris Woakes 3-83) by 336 runs.