WELLINGTON: Sam Curran produced an unplayable ball to dismiss New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and put England in a strong position at the end of the second day of the first Test at Bay Oval.
The hosts ended the day on 144-4 and Henry Nicholls (26) and BJ Watling (six) will resume in Mt. Maunganui today (Saturday) to try and eat into their 209-run deficit after England were dismissed for 353 after lunch on Friday. Williamson had been rested for the Twenty20 matches before the two-test series and had just four innings since the World Cup final in July, one of which was in a first-class game last month.
The 29-year-old, however, anchored New Zealand’s innings with his 31st test half century but was surprised by a ball from Curran that reared off the pitch. Williamson was caught in the slips for 51 off the next delivery after he reached the milestone. Tom Latham had been dismissed before tea for eight, while Jeet Raval (19) and Ross Taylor (25) both fell to reckless shots as they holed out in the deep in the final session. Neil Wagner had wrapped up England’s innings about an hour after the lunch break after a superb spell from Tim Southee in the first session dragged his side back into the match.
The tourists had looked well set to post a big total when they resumed on Friday on 241-4 with Ben Stokes at the crease on 67 and eager to push on. The all-rounder and Ollie Pope, who overturned an early lbw decision on review while on his overnight score of 18, dominated the first 30 minutes with Stokes in particular bristling with aggression. Stokes raced to 91 and looked set for his ninth test century when he slashed at a Southee delivery and was caught one handed by a diving Taylor at first slip. His dismissal sparked a collapse as England slumped from 277-4 to 286-7 and then 295-8 before Jos Buttler (43) and Jack Leach, who finished 18 not out, combined for an important ninth wicket partnership of 52 runs.
Wagner finished off England’s innings when he bowled Stuart Broad for one having had Buttler caught at deep point by Mitchell Santner. Santner had actually been off the field signing autographs shortly before Wagner began his run up and was perhaps unsighted by Buttler, who had been dropped by Raval in a similar position in the previous over. Southee finished with 4-88 and could have had a five-wicket haul had Raval not dropped Buttler. The second Test is at Seddon Park in Hamilton from Nov. 29-Dec. 3.