England battle to save first Test against New Zealand
Joe Root was dismissed inside the opening hour of the final day as England battled to save the first Test against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui.
The England captain was caught low at gully for 11 following an indeterminate poke off Colin De Grandhomme but Joe Denly and Ben Stokes took the tourists to lunch on 98 for four – still 164 runs in arrears.
In truth, the scoreboard is probably of little significance to England, who need to bat out the entirety of day five to avoid falling 1-0 down in the two-Test series.
Mitch Santner was exploiting a little turn and some variable bounce but he was unable to add to his three wickets on Monday morning on a slow pitch that was offering little for the seamers.
New Zealand’s push for victory could be hindered after it was revealed Trent Boult had left the field before lunch with pain in the right side of his ribs after bowling only one over in the first session.
The dismissals of openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns and nightwatchman Rory Burns on day four meant England had only seven wickets in hand – though seamer Stuart Broad was bullish about their prospects of avoiding defeat.
“We don’t just believe we can save this game, we expect to,” Broad said to the BBC’s Test Match Special before play. “There’s nothing in that pitch that should frighten us.”
He was correct early on as Denly and Root negotiated the first few overs with only a couple of minor alarms, the pair adopting an ultra cautious brief.
However, in the penultimate over before the drinks break, Root’s hesitation got the better of him as the Yorkshireman hung out his bat to a harmless De Grandhomme shorter ball, with Tom Latham taking a fine, low catch.
Root’s average as Test captain has dropped to 39.7, compared to 52.8 when he is not leading the side.
Stokes got off the mark from his 25th ball, dispatching the miserly Santner through the covers for four.
However, from the very next delivery, Stokes was nutmegged via the bottom of the bat after Santner had found some turn, and the ball narrowly avoided connecting with leg-stump.
England added only 43 runs in 31.2 overs but Denly and Stokes got through the session unscathed, with Black Caps captain Kane Williamson bowling an innocuous over immediately before the break.