New Zealand pair BJ Watling and Colin De Grandhomme registered contrasting half-centuries to frustrate England on the third afternoon of the first cricket Test at Mount Maunganui.
A desperately slow surface led to another attritional day as England’s front-line attack toiled, the day’s only wicket falling via the unlikely source of Joe Root’s part-time off-breaks.
Watling settled for grinding down England as he reached a battling fifty from 149 balls while De Grandhomme, despite taking few risks, needed only 73 deliveries to get there as New Zealand went to tea on 316 for five, trailing by 37.
Barring a dramatic reversal in fortunes, New Zealand were poised to go past England’s first-innings 353 in the final session, with Watling on 79 and De Grandhomme contributing 65 in a stand that had reached 119.
Paceman Jofra Archer cranked up the pace in mid-afternoon – peaking at 94.4mph – but conceded 25 runs from five entertaining overs and remained wicketless in his first overseas Test.
There were chances for England, with Ben Stokes shelling a relatively simple slip catch with Watling on 31, while De Grandhomme was put down on 62 as Rory Burns could not cling on to a tougher chance at gully.
Stuart Broad was chosen ahead of Archer to open the bowling alongside Sam Curran, who had accounted for New Zealand captain Kane Williamson the previous evening with a delivery that lifted viciously off a good length.
There was no sign of variable bounce on Saturday morning though, as Henry Nicholls and Watling studiously avoided taking any risks, which meant that Broad finished a tight first spell of one run from five overs.
Only 26 runs came from the first 15 overs of the day but the introduction of spin livened things up briefly, with Nicholls successfully challenging an lbw verdict to slow left armer Jack Leach.
Root’s decision to bring himself on was vindicated when Nicholls played down the wrong line and was trapped plumb in front for 41 – two balls after Stokes had dropped a waist-high catch from a Watling edge.
A 7th Test 50 for Colin de Grandhomme & what an important one this is 🏏 73 balls, 6 fours a SIX. His partnership with Watling is 79. Total 276-5, deficit of 77 👏🏽
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) November 23, 2019
There was little else to cheer for England as De Grandhomme settled quickly, with Root deciding against taking the new ball until after lunch.
The pattern continued into the afternoon as England’s seamers were rotated to little effect while Root turned to Leach after only nine overs with the new ball.
De Grandhomme hooked Archer for six en route to the quickest half-century of the Test, soon after Watling had gone past the milestone.
Archer was riled after a bumper flew over Buttler and went for five wides. The paceman cranked up his speed and beat Watling for pace to spark a loud lbw appeal – and a fruitless review call by England.
De Grandhomme offered a chance when Curran was brought back into the attack, edging to Burns at gully. Despite a wonderful diving effort, Burns was unable to hang on to what would have been a stunning catch.
To compound matters, the England opener briefly went off to have a small split on his right thumb glued.