Cricket: England face uphill struggle to win Test
Watling (100no), Martin Guptill (70) and Brendon McCullum (55), and for the hosts Stuart Broad and Mark Wood, were chiefly responsible as 435 runs were scored and 11 wickets fell on day three of the second Investec Test.
After a 350 all out “stalemate” was achieved in the first innings, England’s challenge to close out series success will be easy to calculate but difficult to achieve – with the Kiwis already up to 338 for six.
Just once in Test history here has a higher fourth-innings total been chased, by Don Bradman’s invincible Australian tourists of 1948 – and England have never made as many to win anywhere.
But England bowling coach Ottis Gibson believes his side have the right character to get a result. He said: “We certainly are [up against it].
“The one thing I’ve noticed about this team since we’ve come back from the Caribbean, and certainly last week at Lord’s, there’s a lot of character in the dressing room, but we can’t hide from the fact that we haven’t been as good as we could have been here. But the character in the dressing room suggests that we’re not out of it yet and we’re starting to believe that upstairs.”
On the England bowlers, Gibson said: “We haven’t bowled very well in both innings. We lacked control. We’ve been guilty of sometimes overdoing it and haven’t always been patient enough. And we’re going at four-and-a-half, nearly five an over and the one-day series hasn’t started yet.”
Black Caps opener Guptill was pleased with his side’s effort and praised team-mate Watling. He said: “[It was a] terrific knock. He’s a great character and he can bat anywhere in the order if we need him to, and he’s been a great find for us and he’s doing well.
“With Brendon out there and BJ coming to the wicket, they’re two very good players, and when BJ gets in he bats a long time, so you know that Brendon can bat a long time. They put on a great partnership and really set the end of the day up for us.”
After overnight rain, Tim Southee (four for 83) took three wickets for six runs – but Broad and Wood counter-attacked in a ninth-wicket stand of 51.
England’s reply had begun with great substance, but faltered on Saturday night – and the decline extended to the loss of seven wickets for 52 runs. Broad and Wood decided, however, there had been enough unsuccessful defence against the moving ball. Broad needed luck on nine and then 17 as first Watling failed to pull off a diving catch at deep midwicket off Trent Boult and then the left-armer could not cling on to a fierce straight-drive back at him. Wood was more convincing until he was caught-behind trying to attack off-spinner Mark Craig.
Broad was not yet done. At a venue where he has made two of his ten Test 50s, he eventually fell four short of another when he was bowled aiming to hit Matt Henry to leg. This was still the highest score he has made in eight Test innings since having his nose broken by India seamer Varun Aaron at Old Trafford last year.
Southee’s early rush of wickets all came via slip catches, Ian Bell first to edge some full-length swing to Craig from the second ball he faced on the resumption. Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali then went in the same over, each neatly caught from low edges. England were left with only two tailend wickets standing, and it was hard to see how they could get through to anywhere near lunch.
But Broad had other ideas as 83 runs were racked up from just 89 balls – and, when the tourists began their second innings, he was almost immediately in the thick of it again with two wickets in 12 balls.
He found enough movement off the pitch to take Tom Latham’s inside edge from round the wicket, and then the outside for a second caught-behind as Kane Williamson registered a rare double failure.
If established cricket sense suggested caution from 23 for two, it was routinely over-ridden by the Kiwis’ new vibe under McCullum as Guptill and Ross Taylor blasted their way out of trouble with a stand of 99 in under 15 overs.
Wood (three for 64) had Taylor poking a low catch to cover, however, with the first ball of his second spell and then Joe Root was safe at third slip off the Durham fast bowler to catch Guptill before tea.
After tea, McCullum batted against his own ethos but to great effect until Wood struck again to pin him lbw on the back foot.
But on a pitch beginning to offer variable bounce, Watling completed his 136-ball century.
ENGLAND first innings
I R Bell c Craig b Southee12
J C Buttler c Taylor b Southee10
M M Ali c Guptill b Southee1
S C J Broad b Henry46
M A Wood c Ronchi b Craig19
J M Anderson not out10
Extras b18 lb6 w5 nb5 pens 034
Total (108.2 overs)350
Fall: 1-177 2-215 3-238 4-239 5-247 6-257 7-266 8-267 9-318
Bowling: Boult 30-7-98-2; Southee 30-5-83-4; Henry 20.2-4-92-1; Craig 26-12-48-2; Williamson 2-1-5-0
NEW ZEALAND second innings
T W M Latham c Buttler b Broad3
M J Guptill c Root b Wood70
K S Williamson c Buttler b Broad6
L R P Taylor c Stokes b Wood48
B B McCullum lbw b Wood55
B J Watling not out100
L Ronchi c Buttler b Anderson31
M D Craig not out15
Extras b4 lb6 pens 010
Total 6 wkts (75 overs)338
Fall: 1-15 2-23 3-122 4-141 5-262 6-315
To Bat: T G Southee, M J Henry, T A Boult.
Bowling: Anderson 16-4-58-1; Broad 13-1-52-2; Wood 14-2-64-3; Stokes 12-1-61-0; M M Ali 15-0-70-0; Root 5-0-23-0.