England have successfully kept themselves ahead of the game in a tight contest on day two in Mount Maunganui.
Resuming on 241/4, England started well with Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope adding 35 quick runs in the first half an hour but soon reverted to type with a typically England style collapse losing 4 wickets for 18 runs in the space of 21 balls.
While in some respects England batsmen threw their wickets away with unnecessary shots, credit must go to the New Zealand bowlers, especially Tim Southee who after a slog on day one came back to bowl with a nagging accuracy.
If it wasn’t for a rear guard action by Jos Buttler and Jack Leach England were spared further blushes and were eventually bowled out for a respectable but slightly under par 353 on this pitch.
Despite this being around 50 runs short, this is England’s highest first innings total in an away test since Melbourne in 2017 which should please Joe Root who spoke before the series of batting for longer periods of time.
New Zealand’s openers were removed relatively quickly, Tom Latham was judged lbw to Sam Curran in his first over replays suggested an inside edge but the batsman did not review and he was dismissed for 8.
Jeet Raval rarely looked convincing at the crease and eventually fell attempting his fourth heave to Jack Leach for 19 after a 54 run stand with Kane Williamson.
It was Williamson who threatened to take the game away from England with his typically fluent accumulation of runs. With his imposing record at home, and playing at his home town, expectations would have been high for the New Zealand captain to make a statement.
Williamson was on 52 was left reeling when unexpected bounce from a length ball from Curran ballooned off his glove and into the grateful hands of Stokes at second slip.
There is clearly some unforeseen variation in this surface and it will only get trickier to bat on during the match, especially for the Blackcaps who must bat last. England’s 353 all of a sudden looking a better score on this pitch.
Expectations now fall to Henry Nicholls, wicketkeeper BJ Watling and the lower order to edge New Zealand towards parity while England will be looking for early wickets in the morning to have a first innings lead and exert some pressure.
For a contest between two sides who have been so difficult to separate in recent times, this match promises to be no different.
Play resumes tonight at 2200GMT.
Image courtesy of ECB via Twitter, with thanks.