LEEDS: New Zealand were dismissed for 326 to set England a target of 296 for victory after the in-form Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell had again frustrated the hosts on the fourth day of the third Test at Headingley on Sunday.
England’s momentum gained by taking three wickets late on the third day seemed to be fading away in the morning as Mitchell and Blundell continued their fine form in the series and batted through the first session after resuming on 168-5.
New Zealand comfortably negotiated the early swing in gusty conditions before Mitchell and Blundell completed their half-centuries after lunch.
The pair also saw off a bit of the new ball before fast bowler Matthew Potts finally broke the 113-run stand, much to the delight of the Headingley crowd.
Blundell first survived an lbw decision after the batsman reviewed before Potts dismissed Mitchell (56) with a similar delivery that rapped him on the pads.
This time the review went in England’s favour and it opened the floodgates as spinner Jack Leach took centre stage, picking up five wickets in an innings for the second time in the match which took left arm spinner overall figures to 10-166.
Michael Bracewell (9) attempted to hit Leach for one six too many, finding Zak Crawley on the deep midwicket boundary, before Tim Southee was bowled by the spinner.
Neil Wagner was dismissed when substitute wicketkeeper Sam Billings clung on to a catch with his knees and Trent Boult was the last to fall when he was bowled by Leach, leaving Blundell stranded on 88 not out.
The last five wickets fell for 52 runs as Leach became the first England spinner to claim two five-wicket hauls in a home Test since Derek Underwood in 1974.
The hosts were dealt a blow before play started when wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was ruled out of the remainder of the game after testing positive for Covid-19, with Billings brought in as a substitute.
Earlier on Saturday, England took a flurry of late wickets, starting from the first ball after the tea break, when Tom Latham, dropped by Joe Root in the slips on 72, fell to the first ball.
The towering Overton had him caught behind for 76 by stand-in wicketkeeper Bairstow, with first-choice gloveman Foakes.
The dismissal gave England the hope of starting their new era with a series clean sweep when New Zealand slipped from 125-1 to 168-5 in their second innings, a lead of 137, with paceman Potts having taken 2-20, when rain cut short the third day of the third Test.
Devon Conway turned Joe Root’s first ball after a rain break off his pads, only for Ollie Pope to hold a superb one-handed catch at short leg.
Conway’s exit sparked a mini collapse that saw three wickets lost for just nine runs, with New Zealand’s 152-2 quickly transformed into 161-5.
Williamson casually flicked at Potts outside off stump to give Bairstow a simple catch — the third time in four innings this series he had fallen to the Durham seamer.
The star batter threw his head back in anguish following the end of a well-made 48 featuring eight boundaries.Leach then deceived Henry Nicholls into offering a low return catch.
Mitchell, who has already hit three hundreds this series, was four not out when further rain ended the day’s play, with Blundell unbeaten on five.
England, 2-0 up, are bidding to win every match of a home series with at least three Tests for the first time since their 4-0 rout of India in 2011.
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings) 329
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 360
NEW ZEALAND (2nd Innings, overnight: 168-5):
T. Latham c Bairstow b Overton 76
W. Young c Pope b Potts 8
K. Williamson c Bairstow b Potts 48
D. Conway c Pope b Root 11
H. Nicholls c & b Leach 7
D. Mitchell lbw b Potts 56
T. Blundell not out 88
M. Bracewell c Crawley b Leach 9
T. Southee b Leach 2
N. Wagner c Billings b Leach 0
T. Boult b Leach 4
EXTRAS (B-9, LB-2, NB-2, W-4) 17
TOTAL (all out, 105.2 overs) 326
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-28 (Young), 2-125 (Latham), 3-152 (Conway), 4-153 (Williamson), 5-161 (Nicholls), 6-274 (Mitchell), 7-291 (Bracewell), 8-305 (Southee), 9-305 (Southee), 10-326 (Boult)
BOWLING: Broad 24-7-63-0, Leach 32.2-12-66-5, Potts 25-5-66-3 (1w), Overton 14-2-61-1 (1nb, 3w), Stokes 4-0-30-0 (1nb), Root 6-0-29-1.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2022