England race out to 256-run lead in New Zealand
England’s first Test against New Zealand accelerated towards its end game on day three at Mount Maunganui, with the tourists smashing 158 runs in the first session but losing four wickets along the way.
At one stage England looked to be in full control, flogging veteran seamer Neil Wagner with abandon, but their policy of all-out attack came with a price as Ollie Pope (49), Harry Brook (57) and Joe Root (54) all came unstuck before making the game safe.
At the first break they had moved from their overnight score of 79 for two to 237 for six. That left them 256 ahead, a considerable but far from insurmountable lead in this day/night Test.
The day began with England’s so-called ‘nighthawk’ Stuart Broad making a brisk exit. Having trended on UK Twitter when he arrived at the crease on night two, Broad posted about his enthusiasm for the free role but he was swiftly dispatched by Wagner when he looped a catch to gully.
The left-arm seamer continued banging out the same short-pitched tactics that he did for Broad but found Pope and Root much less obliging.
His next two overs disappeared for a wince-inducing 32, Pope stepping inside the line and pulling him emphatically for six on three separate occasions.
Root watched, learned and repeated, mimicking the shot almost exactly as he gave the massed fans on the Bay Oval’s grass banks another chance to hone their catching skills.
Undeterred, Wagner changed ends but continued bumping the batters. With a blanket of catchers posted for the pull, Pope simply decided to alter his plans, slapping one over cover and another to the unguarded mid-on region.
Wagner’s stubborness paid dividends off the next ball, though, as Pope took on yet another short one and brushed a glove through to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
The arrival of Harry Brook was never going to slow things down and he promptly blazed a wonderful 37-ball half-century.
Once again, Wagner put himself in the firing line as Brook lined him up and unloaded some more fiercely powerful shots. His knock contained seven fours and two sixes, one swung with a flat-batted flourish straight down the ground.
Wagner’s barrage finally ended with him sitting on bruising figures of two for 104 from 11 overs, including 84 from the last seven.
Root was cast as the safe pair of hands, despite posting his own 50 at close to a run-a-ball, and he was left to carry things through to tea when Brook’s assault came to an unexpectedly timid end. Having poked Blair Tickner for four past gully, Brook went for more of the same but was cramped a little for room and nicked the ball to slip.
Ben Foakes emerged ahead of the indisposed Ben Stokes as the game finally entered a becalmed moment but there was one more twist in the tale.
In the final over of the session Root aimed a reverse sweep at spinner Michael Bracewell, toe-ending to slip to make it two unconventional dismissals in the match.