Stuart Broad spoke of his respect for New Zealand’s attack after another day on tour that witnessed English toil in the field followed by the late clatter of English wickets in the evening session.
When Joe Root and Rory Burns (somehow) walked off at the close on day two the tourists sat on 39 for two in reply to the home side’s 375 all out after tea. Dom Sibley had endured a torrid time amid a 20-ball four, before Joe Denly nicked off for the same.
Much like the fourth evening in Mount Maunganui it was a case of New Zealand’s bowlers having been energised by their own batsmen, with Tim Southee and Matt Henry the men to inflict the late incisions. For Stuart Broad, who had earlier picked up for four for 73 from 28 overs, their success at home is commendable given the flat tracks on offer.
“The mindset is different here and I have a lot of respect for how Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have gone about their business,” said Broad, who went wicketless during the first Test. “You have to mix it up here. It’s not a three-slips-and-a gully place to bowl.”
If Dom Sibley succeeds at Test level he will have done so from a particularly chastening start, the opener’s third innings this series once again lacking any of the permanence demonstrated during a summer repelling county attacks.
Many a fine career has stumbled out of the blocks initially – Graham Gooch’s pair on debut springs to mind. But Sibley here was troubling at the crease, having been struck on the helmet and in the box before eventually missing a leg-stump half-volley from Southee – his supposed area of strength.
Clearing the mind will be essential for Sibley before his next outing, provided the right-hander has not suffered delayed concussion after ducking into one from Southee. And Burns, his opening partner and old Surrey team-mate, may be a good person to speak to in this regard.
Burns was dropped on 10 and 18 in this tough mini-session, with Ross Taylor at slip and Jeet Raval at mid-wicket the men to hand him lives. Though he went hard at the ball and did well to survive, the left-hander’s time in the Test team has shown an ability tough out the hard times.
This trait was on show during New Zealand’s first innings too, swelling an overnight 174 for three by some 201 runs when eventually all out at 5.14pm, thanks to BJ Watling’s 192-ball 55 and 73 from 159 on debut from Daryl Mitchell.
Despite a bright start, Broad’s return to the wickets column and Ben Stokes easing some of the fears over his damaged knee by sending down 13 overs with a painful grimace on his face, England’s lack of penetration was evident once more.
Indeed there was a four-hour spell when you wondered if they truly believed they could take a wicket, let alone the 20 required to level the series, as the pair put on 124 in 53.4 overs and turned touring brains into mush.
Watling was reprising the unyielding approach from his double century at Bay Oval, and on the ground named after New Zealand’s longest-serving prime minster, Richard Seddon (clearly a stubborn type himself given his 4,791 days in office were only ended by his death in 1906).
Mitchell, having replaced the injured Colin de Grandhomme, was meanwhile demonstrating the depth in New Zealand’s cricket at present from the other end, as well as an ability to play the pull shot, something England decided to keep checking.
This pair of Hamilton locals had come together from 191 for five in the morning when Sam Curran followed Broad’s removal of Latham with his sixth ball – bowled leaving a straight one on 105 – by teasing Henry Nicholls into a top-edged pull shot. An early chance came off the edge of Watling’s bat on one – Ollie Pope, the emergency keeper, perhaps stood too deep to Curran – but other than a wasted second review against the same man on seven, a who-blinks-first passage of play followed, kickstarted by some immaculately dry bowling from Chris Woakes.
It was not until the stroke of tea that Broad eventually broke through. He fired a short ball down from almost two feet behind the popping crease that found Watling’s glove and flew to gully. Broad later revealed this was a plan first hatched to exploit Steve Smith’s trigger movements in the summer, but his one attempt at it didn’t work.
This was just the second time in 891 balls faced that Watling has been out – a run stretching back to an unbeaten 105 against Sri Lanka in August – and without his graft at one end, New Zealand lost their last four wickets for 60 runs in the hour after tea amid some swish from the lower order. Mitchell holed out to fine leg when finally top-edging a hook off Broad – Archer holding the catch after finding himself the target of some good-natured chanting – with Woakes then bouncing out Tim Southee. Mitch Santner swatted a couple of sixes before giving Archer a wicket for his efforts and Curran taking out Wagner first-ball.
With the shadows lengthening, it was then over to England to bat out the last 21 overs of the day, something beyond two of them. New Zealand swarmed once more and Broad, resting up in the pavilion, presumably kept his admiration to himself at this point in time.