Vince, Stoneman build but Cook's woes deepen

Tea England 307 (Bairstow 101, Wood 52, Southee 6-62, Boult 4-87) and 113 for 1 (Vince 55*, Stoneman 42*) lead New Zealand 278 (Watling 85, Broad 6-54) by 142 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

James Vince and Mark Stoneman set about finishing England’s winter as they had begun it at Brisbane in November, compiling an 89-run stand of increasing authority to build on their side’s hard-earned 29-run lead in the second Test at Christchurch.

By tea on the third afternoon, the pair had carried England along to a healthy 113 for 1 in their second innings, an overall lead of 142, with both men showcasing the sort of fluency and resolve that the selectors have long believed was within their capability.

But, as their efforts in that long-ago Gabba Test went on to prove, with both men making fifties but neither going on, starts in Test cricket are rarely sufficient in the final analysis.

Vince, recalled for this Test having sat out in Auckland, arrived at the crease in the ninth over following another troubling failure for Alastair Cook, and signalled his intent with a second-ball slam through the covers off Trent Boult – a shot that he tends to play with authority, regardless of circumstance.

But, by the time he had added two more off-side boundaries in his first seven deliveries (one of them a bit chancy, if truth be told), Vince had established the parameters of an innings that was surely his last opportunity to establish himself in the team. And his commitment to calculated aggression was serving him well by tea, as he went to the break on 55 not out, with nine boundaries, the last of which was a trademark creaming through the covers to up the third half-century of his Test career.

At the other end, Stoneman was taking a more attritional route to the top. He had one key let-off on 35, when he was adjudged caught behind off a Neil Wagner lifter, only for replays to prove that the ball had come off his shoulder. But for the most part he was untroubled by a New Zealand attack that failed to find any venom in the third-day surface. All four of his boundaries were rifled through the covers – with less flourish than Vince, maybe, but no less authority, as he bided his time on each occasion and made sure he punished the loose delivery.

Vince and Stoneman’s efforts, however, could not entirely gloss over another troubling failure for Cook, England’s leading Test run-scorer, whose dismissal for 14 took his tally for the tour to a dismal 23 runs in four innings, at an average of 5.75 that is, by a distance, his worst return in any completed Test series.

Having survived with fluency in a 15-minute spell before lunch, Cook returned after the break seemingly determined to make his presence felt. His footwork was more confident as he latched on a brace of short balls from Tim Southee to pick up his first boundaries of the series, but from his very next delivery, he was trapped in no-man’s land by his nemesis Boult, who nipped a length ball off his outside edge to claim his wicket for the ninth time in Tests. Cook trudged off for 14 with a huge amount to ponder before England’s next Test engagement, against Pakistan in May.

Cook might have anticipated being called on to bat earlier in the day, but a combative morning’s work allowed New Zealand’s lower order to reduce their first-innings deficit to a manageable 29. Stuart Broad eventually wrapped up the innings with figures of 6 for 54, but not before Southee had posted his first Test half-century since 2014 and Neil Wagner and Boult had clobbered 39 priceless runs in an enterprising tenth-wicket stand.

After resuming on 192 for 6, Southee signalled New Zealand’s intent by pulling the fourth ball of the morning, from Ben Stokes, over wide long-on for the 64th six of his Test career, drawing him level with AB de Villiers for the most by any active player. He then followed that feat by slapping consecutive fours in Mark Wood’s next over, including a brutal straight drive which all but parted the bowler’s hair.

It took the arrival of the second new ball for England to regain a measure of control, as BJ Watling – the silent partner to both Southee and, before him, Colin de Grandhomme, was uprooted for 85 by the ball of the innings, a full-length outswinger from James Anderson that bent from leg to off to smash the stumps. Watling had been denied his seventh Test century, but having hauled his team off the canvas at 36 for 5, he had more than played his part.

Ish Sodhi was the next to fall, done in by a good-length delivery that straightened off the pitch to snick the edge and hand Broad his first five-wicket haul since the Johannesburg Test against South Africa in January 2016. And when Anderson ended Southee’s fun, plucking out his middle stump three balls after he had reached his fifty, England had reduced their hosts to 239 for 9 and were looking at a substantial lead.

Boult and Wagner, however, had other ideas. Wagner, pinned on the helmet by a fierce Broad lifter early in his stay, slapped Anderson out of the attack with a 13-run over, including an impulsive hook over fine leg for six, while Boult – as idiosyncratic as Courtney Walsh in his pomp – ducked and dived at the crease, and occasionally connected with power. He rattled along to 16 from 22 balls before top-edging Broad to fine leg to ensure, for the second innings in the match, that all ten wickets were shared by just the opening bowlers.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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