Sunday, June 26, 2022

England’s bowlers hit stands finish against New Zealand

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England’s bowlers landed in the stands against New Zealand in the second Test, with a rousing performance on day four that opened the door to a classic finish at Trent Bridge.

New Zealand finished 238 points clear of 224 for seven, a margin that leaves every possible outcome open, including the tantalizing possibility of a series-winning chase for Ben Stokes’ men.

Nottinghamshire have opened their doors on day five, offering free entry to what may be a memorable day of cricket, made possible by the kind of passionate, proactive play Stokes has demanded since taking captaincy earlier in the summer.

England were eliminated mid morning session for 539 after losing five for 66 and trailing 14.

Despite falling behind, they had batted so bravely with a 4.2 run rate over 120 overs that they still had time to shape the game. Joe Root, who was eventually fired for a wonderful 176, had a lot to do with it.

James Anderson was also in the mood to seize the moment, scattering visiting captain Tom Latham’s stumps with his fifth ball of the day to reach 650 Test wickets and set the bunnies going.

New Zealand fought well in the afternoon session but lost five men after tea as England bowled and fielded hungrily and took a chance to push for victory. Matthew Potts took two, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach one each, and two breakaways added the icing on the cake.

Anderson was the last England batsman to fall in a lively morning session that showed both sides’ commitment to moving things forward and quickly had a fresh Dukes ball in his hands.

Early in his overs, spin greats Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan were the only men to reach the 650 milestone; In the end, the 39-year-old joined them.

Latham didn’t offer a shot as Anderson roared in from the wicket and watched in horror as the ball crashed down the middle and off stumps.

Anderson and Broad did everything they could to catch another, lavishly ripping the ball out of the seam. Any of a handful of deliveries would have done the trick, but Will Young and Devon Conway gritted their teeth and played for one for the break on the 27th.

The Black Caps duo got their rewards for seeing the shine on the ball and growing in comfort during an afternoon session that saw their partnership swell to exactly 100. Both played Leach smart and adjusted left arm before becoming more ambitious.

At one point he leaked five boundaries in nine balls, Young used his feet to throw him across the infield twice and Conway showed great precision to find three different gaps.

Looking good, Conway swept Leach backwards to the ropes four times, but handed him off immediately after fifty when a slog sweep sailed off the top edge towards Jonny Bairstow.

New Zealand lost their composure after the tea, Henry Nicholls beat Potts to a point shortly after the restart before Young was out for 49.

His poor call and brief hesitation led to the opener, but a sharp, flat throw from Ollie Pope and a diving, sightless shot from Stokes’ bails ensured it wasn’t wasted.

Still just 146 behind, England were simmering again as Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell came together, fresh from the ranks of two centuries. They held for 18 overs before Blundell wobbled and flapped a broad bumper against Stokes on the square leg.

New Zealand have a hard-earned reputation for keeping their cool in the game’s longest format, but in their attempts to increase their lead and improve their own chances of winning, they made more self-inflicted errors before the end.

Michael Bracewell was placed well at 24 when he stepped down at Potts and hacked Broad midway before Tim Southee ran for a duck as he and Mitchell lost their radar.

That ended a miserable day for Southee, who had previously hit career-worst bowling numbers of zero for 154 and was on the receiving end of an outrageous piece of hitting from the authoritative root.

With a terrific 163 under his belt overnight and just about to hit his second ball of the morning, he flipped the racquet in his hands and stooped to take the 80mph seamer over his shoulder, over the briefs and all the way over the third-man -Limit to shovel six.

For a player known as one of the game’s leading classics, it was a moment of remarkable innovative thinking and the culmination of a rocky close to the innings.

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