Late wickets leave Black Caps in trouble against England

England's Matthew Potts (C) celebrates alongside teammate Ben Stokes after taking the wicket of...
England's Matthew Potts (C) celebrates alongside teammate Ben Stokes after taking the wicket of New Zealand's Kane Williamson. Photo: Reuters
The plot in the England-New Zealand test cricket series kept weaving like the beer snake extending across the majority of Headingley's Western Terrace.

Such creatures are subject to extinction due to signs proclaiming: "Don't dampen other people's enjoyment of the day". Yet they continue to evolve, much like the current cricket battle. No one seems too upset at either outcome.

In the latest chapter, the hosts have the advantage with two days to play in the hunt for a Baz-ball inspired 3-0 sweep.

They were dismissed for 360, adding 96 runs across the opening session to establish a 31-run lead. The visitors got to lunch unscathed at 13 without loss, tea at 125 for one but by stumps had slumped to 168 for five, ahead by 137.

Daryl Mitchell (4) and Tom Blundell (5) are faced with their fourth resurrection of the series.

The two batters New Zealand fans needed to deliver most also met at least part of the bargain.

Until today, Kane Williamson and Tom Latham had spent 11.3 overs batting together in the series from two Lord's stints.

This time they knuckled into a 97-run second-wicket stand to construct a lead. The determination of the captain and vice-captain was juxtaposed against a buoyant England attack spurred on by baying Saturday crowd.

Latham was due, having not passed 26 in eight innings since making his match-winning 252 against Bangladesh in January.

His 76 was a delight, as he distributed strokes all around the ground. He had a particular penchant for clipping half-volleys on leg stump through to the mid-wicket fence, but straight drives and punches off the back foot in the vicinity of point were clinical.

Latham's downfall came via an edge off Jamie Overton from the first ball after tea. In an awkward sequel, the right-arm debutant sconed Devon Conway. A replacement helmet and army of personnel were summoned to ensure he was tickety-boo. Concentration also proved troublesome after the rain interval. Conway fell immediately for 11 to a reflex left-handed snare from short leg Ollie Pope off the spin of Joe Root.

Williamson missed the entire home summer with his elbow tendon injury, struggled in the first test at Lord's with returns of two and 15 and caught Covid before Trent Bridge. He gritted together 31 in the first innings but offered more of his customary poise in the second with 48.

However, he appeared to get mired after Latham's exit, making 11 from 34 balls. Matthew Potts convinced him to flirt in the corridor outside off stump and a nick to stand-in wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow sealed his fate.

Williamson has fallen to cordon catches in each of his four dismissals this series, with three coming from Potts' bowling. His lean back for a gaze at the sky afterwards is about as demonstrative as the captain gets in expressing frustration.

To accentuate the problems, a punishing workload for New Zealand's pace bowlers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner continued early.

Spinning all-rounder Michael Bracewell bowled the first over of the day, before returning mid-session to create two chances in an over. Stuart Broad threaded wicketkeeper Blundell and first slip Mitchell, and Bairstow burst a drive through Bracewell's own raised hands.

The 31-year-old can take some satisfaction in eventually securing Bairstow's wicket, albeit for 162 off 157 balls, when he sliced a low catch to Trent Boult running in from long-off. He finished with one for 54 from seven overs.

Meanwhile, left-arm orthodox Ajaz Patel, the third man in test history to take 10 wickets in an innings last December against India at Mumbai, sat in the pavilion. He has bowled two overs since his 14 for 225 match feat.

Elsewhere, England's own left-arm orthodox Jack Leach took five for 100 in the first innings from 38.3 overs and came back with one for 26 from 13 in the second. Turn looks imminent as the pitch dries.

Bracewell will presumably have plenty of responsibility thrust on him in the fourth innings for someone with 31 first-class wickets at 47.06 in his second test.

England continued their aggressive approach across the morning. Debutant Jamie Overton added eight before Boult removed him for 97. Broad slapped a few balls around too, posting a whimsical 42 off 36 deliveries until Tim Southee bowled him.

Boult was again the pick of the bowlers, finishing with four for 104 off 22 overs.

 - By Andrew Alderson at Headingley

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