England blaze back after Boult brilliance

Trent Boult in action against England on day three. Photo Reuters
Trent Boult in action against England on day three. Photo Reuters
The ebb-and-flow of the New Zealand and England three-test cricket series continued on the second day of the final match at Headingley.

The constant fluctuations have proven a hallmark of the duel between the sides and this proved another prime example.

Let's start off the long run, specifically Trent Boult's.

He exhibited stealth, rhythm and fury; pacing towards any England batter in the early stanzas after the visitors posted 329. Yet by stumps, the hosts were 264 for six in reply, a deficit of 65.

Boult finished with three for 73 from 16 overs and reminded the Yorkshire crowd that he remains a pre-eminent athlete, albeit a month shy of his 33rd birthday.

He tore through the England top order from over the wicket, swinging the ball through narrow drawbridges into the exposed castles of Alex Lees (4), Ollie Pope (5) and Zak Crawley (6). His wrist position could have been framed for display in Te Papa.

Boult reduced England to 17 for three in the seventh over. Tim Southee responded in the eighth by luring a snick from Joe Root (5) and, after a bravado-led flurry from captain Ben Stokes slapping 18 off 13 balls, he fell c Kane Williamson b Neil Wagner.

Wagner produced a primal reaction in his first over of the tour, but could afford to rest easy knowing the skipper's safe hands waited under the ball at mid-off.

The day was coming when England's aggressive new manifesto would face more scrutiny.

The paradox is that the ferocity of Baz-ball requires patience. That effectively came when they exited for tea at 91 for six.

In contrast, the Black Caps displayed a vehement passion as they left the ground, showcased by a series of high-fives and handshakes.

They had taken pride in sticking to a plan of pitching the ball up, bringing the slip cordon and stumps into play, and reducing the number of short deliveries that England grazed off in the second innings at Nottingham.

Then Jonny Bairstow, the Thumper of Trent Bridge, and debutant Jamie Overton built a partnership from the initial-innings embers.

They summoned the courage to recalibrate a situation where they were playing on a flat pitch against an ageing ball with the "12th man" of the crowd roaring the more they planted their feet and hit through the line – a simple but effective strategy as the Black Caps bowlers tired.

Bairstow continued his form to post a 10th test century with 130. Overton, who has one previous first-class ton in 82 matches, exceeded expectations with 89.

The pair flourished with a record England unbeaten seventh-wicket stand of 209 against all comers, eclipsing a 62-year mark.

Michael Bracewell, picked as the spin option ahead of Ajaz Patel, contributed four overs for 37 runs. That left Boult, Southee and Wagner to do the bulk of the work, with a cameo from Daryl Mitchell.

Speaking of less ebb and more flow from a New Zealand perspective, Mitchell earlier moved New Zealand into a position of respectability, but not authority with his fourth test century.

He became the fifth of his compatriots, after Mark Burgess (1969-72), Ross Taylor (2013), Tom Latham (2018-19) and Kane Williamson (2020-21), to score tons in three successive tests. Mitchell's the only one to complete the trifecta overseas.

He was eventually caught by Stokes running back from mid-off for 109 off the bowling of spinner Jack Leach to complete the opening session.

Mitchell joined Sir Donald Bradman in becoming the only visiting batters to score centuries in the first three tests of a series in England.

His 482 runs is the highest aggregate by a New Zealander in a tour against England, topping Martin Donnelly's 462 in 1949.

His sixth-wicket partnership of 120 with Tom Blundell also marked the first time the same pair of New Zealanders have made century partnerships in three consecutive tests, after their efforts at Lord's and Trent Bridge.

Blundell was eventually adjudged lbw to Matthew Potts for 55. The delivery hit the back pad and was angling towards leg stump. The Black Cap's frustration was understandable when he realised DRS was unavailable for a review.

To quote the television show Little Britain: "Computer says no".

Still, New Zealand also had some escapes.

Ben Foakes poached and butchered a snick off Mitchell on 80 which looked destined for Joe Root's hands at first slip.

Bairstow threw a right hand at an edge from Bracewell on four. Captain Stokes and bowler Stuart Broad could not hide their angst.

Still, after an umpteenth attempt by England to change what they considered an unsatisfactory ball, Broad had Bracewell caught by Zak Crawley at second slip for 13.

The series enters the third day at parity yet again.

 - By Andrew Alderson at Headingley

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