England v New Zealand Day Three: Watling keeps tourists waiting
BJ Watling’s tenacious 119 not out inched New Zealand into a first-innings lead as England toiled in the field on the third day of the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Watling was reprieved on 31 when Ben Stokes shelled a relatively simple chance at slip and the Black Caps wicketkeeper expertly capitalised by battling his way to a circumspect 251-ball hundred – his eighth in Tests.
England were therefore left to rue their profligacy as their 353 all out was steadily overhauled by New Zealand, who lost just two wickets all day and were 41 ahead after closing on 394 for six on a desperately slow surface.
There was precious little movement for England’s bowlers while any variable bounce that had been forecast following the demise of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson late on day two was in desperately short supply.
Jofra Archer peaked at 94.4mph in mid-afternoon but he remains wicketless in his first overseas Test, as only Joe Root and Stokes made inroads into the hosts’ batting line-up.
Patience is a virtue
Patience and discipline has been required from both batsman and bowler alike over three attritional days on a docile pitch. It bordered on stultifying on the third morning as Henry Nicholls and Watling took just 26 runs from 15 overs in the first hour. Such an approach laid the platform for later on but it must have been a tough watch for the paying punters.
Captain leads from the front
After his seamers had proven innocuous, Root brought himself on to bowl and his part-time off-breaks had both Watling and Nicholls in trouble. While Stokes gave Watling a lifeline from Root’s second ball, Nicholls was not so fortunate as he played down the wrong line and was trapped lbw for 41. The source of the wicket was unlikely but England gratefully accepted it.
No waiting around for De Grandhomme
In his 18 previous Tests, De Grandhomme had an almost unheard of strike-rate of 90.2. The tricky conditions meant he had to be a little more watchful but he still reached his half-century in 73 balls – the quickest fifty of the Test and fewer than half the number of deliveries Watling took to get there (149). He slowed up a touch thereafter before eventually clubbing Stokes’ long hop to gully from the first ball after tea.
Speaking of De Grandhomme’s departure, it would be remiss to not mention Dom Sibley’s tremendous catch. Ross Taylor produced a stunning effort to see off Stokes during England’s innings and this was every bit as superb. The England debutant flung himself low to his right to take a one-handed grab mere inches off the ground. If Sibley goes on to flourish in his international career, he will not take too many better than that.
Fingers crossed with Burns’ recovery
Sibley was probably only in the gully because fellow opening batsman Rory Burns was off the field after spilling a sharp chance off De Grandhomme when he was on 62. To compound Burns’ misery, he suffered a small split in his right finger and spent the rest of the day in the dressing room for treatment. However, he is expected to open the batting in England’s second innings.
November 24: New Zealand v England, day four of the first Test at Mount Maunganui, where the Black Caps will be aiming to consolidate their first-innings advantage.