The final Test between England and New Zealand remains firmly in the balance after Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell made another impressive fightback after an excellent performance from the England bowlers.
Despite losing the toss, England enjoyed a largely good day in the field as they reduced New Zealand to 225-5 at the close. They got off to a perfect start when Stuart Broad got Tom Latham caught at slip for a duck in the very first over of the match.
From then on, the visitors struggled to put a meaningful partnership together until Mitchell and Blundell once again combined after they had been reduced to 123-5. Jack Leach removed Will Young lbw for 20 with his first delivery of the match, while Broad got returning captain Kane Williamson caught behind for 31.
After the lunch break, debutant Jamie Overton got his first England wicket when Devon Conway played the ball onto his own stumps for 26. Henry Nicholls, meanwhile, battled hard and lasted 99 deliveries for his 19 before getting out in truly bizarre fashion.
Having attempted to drive Leach down the ground, Nicholls hit the ball straight at Mitchell. In his attempts to take evasive action, the ball hit Mitchell’s bat and was diverted straight to Alex Lees at mid-off, with Nicholls given out caught off his own teammate.
However, with New Zealand in real trouble when Blundell walked to the crease, the wicketkeeper proceeded to put on yet another sizable partnership with Mitchell. They became the first pair to face over 1,000 balls together in a Test tour of England since South Africa openers Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs did so in 2003.
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Together, they added a further 102 runs to push New Zealand up to 225-5 at the close. Mitchell passed fifty for the fourth time in five innings, ending the day unbeaten on 78 and will resume on day two looking for his third hundred of the series.
Blundell, meanwhile, made 45 not out and the pair will be desperate to push New Zealand up to an imposing first innings total, while England will be looking to make quick inroads. Despite Mitchell and Blundell’s impressive fightback, England were largely excellent with the ball, with former captain Michael Vaughan singling out spinner Leach and the wicketless Matthew Potts for praise.
“This is the best I’ve seen England bowl in a long time,” he told BBC Test Match Special. “The seamers have bowled the right lengths as a collective, Jack Leach looks so much better than he did in Nottingham and Matthew Potts has been the stand out, absolutely fantastic.”