England are eyeing a memorable victory in the second cricket Test at Trent Bridge after reducing New Zealand to 224-7, and a lead of 238, by stumps on day four, setting up the possibility of a thrilling final-day run chase.
England, who trailed by 80 overnight, were ultimately bowled out for 539 in their first innings – Joe Root adding 13 to his score before perishing for a fine 176 – to earn the Black Caps a slender advantage, but when James Anderson (1-18) claimed his 650th Test wicket, bowling Tom Latham fifth ball, England were very much in the ascendency.
Anderson was gifted his landmark wicket as Latham left a straight ball that clattered into his stumps. The 39-year-old fast bowler is just third man ever to reach the landmark after spin legends Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Anderson’s milestone came just months after he admitted he was “praying” his international career wasn’t over following the decision to drop him for the West Indies tour.
Restored to the team by new captain Ben Stokes, Anderson looks as good as ever and his experience will be crucial if England are to win their first Test series since January 2021.
Will Young (56) and Devon Conway (52) did well to repel the home side’s seamers in helpful conditions, sharing in a century stand for the second wicket, but just as New Zealand seemed to be free from danger, three wickets fell for 27 runs to again have England hopeful.
First they would have to find a way past Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell, the pair fresh from a 236-run partnership in the first innings, following off the back of a 195-run stand at Lord’s. While Blundell (24) hung around for a while, his wicket to Stuart Broad (1-53) prompted another mini-collapse of three wickets inside six overs late in the day.
Mitchell – who scored a magnificent 190 two days ago – remains, closing the day unbeaten on 32, although he will be ruing two running mix-ups on his watch that resulted in the wickets of Young and Tim Southee.
England were aggressive from the outset on day four, with Root sensationally reverse-ramping Southee (0-154) for six and Ben Foakes firing a flurry of boundaries on his way through to a second Test fifty.
The hosts raced past 500 and were reeling in New Zealand’s score – 43 runs coming from the first five overs of the morning session – only for the Kiwis to finally prize out Root, the former England captain deceived by a Trent Boult slower ball and picking out the man placed at short cover.
A clatter of wickets followed, England losing their final five for just 23 runs as Boult (5-106) and Michael Bracewell (3-62) mopped up the tail. Foakes (56) was unfortunate to be run out after being sold a dummy by Matthew Potts (3), who was himself bowled by a devastating in-swinging yorker from Boult (5-106) to secure his 10th Test five-for and fifth versus England.
New Zealand began their second innings with a 14-run advantage, but Anderson and co certainly won’t have minded an early bowl as, in gloomy conditions, with the Trent Bridge floodlights on, the ball zipped around extravagantly – one such delivery deceiving Latham as he shouldered arms to a ball that jagged in sharply off a length and clattered into middle and off.
England deserved greater rewards for their efforts in the mini-session prior to lunch, with both Young and Conway leaving balls dangerously close to their stumps but benefitting from greater fortune than their stand-in skipper.
Following a watchful start after the interval, conditions began to get easier for batting and the pair both took a liking to Jack Leach (1-78). Conway in particular, the left-hander repeatedly reverse-sweeping the left-arm spinner, bringing up the New Zealand 100 and his fifty with such strikes to the boundary.
But a conventional sweep was ultimately Conway’s undoing as, a ball after reaching his half-century, he succeeded only in picking out Jonny Bairstow on the deep square-leg fence.
Henry Nicholls (3) was also guilty of giving his wicket away, slapping a fairly innocuous Potts delivery straight to Alex Lees at backward point in the first over after tea to end a rather scratchy 18-ball stay at the crease.
Young, soon after bringing up his first fifty of the series, was next to go, run out following confusion between him and Mitchell. Ollie Pope gathered the ball at square-leg, collected himself and wisely fired the ball to Ben Stokes at the non-striker’s end, and the England skipper did brilliantly to dislodge the bails blind behind his back.
Mitchell and Blundell, as has so often been the case through this series, halted England’s momentum, putting on 45 together, before the latter perished when hooking Broad to Stokes at backward square – who pointed in celebration to the England balcony, hinting at a plan devised by the Kiwi collective in the coaching staff.
Bracewell (25) came in and whacked four boundaries and a six in a blistering 17-ball cameo before he burned out attempting one shot too many off the impressive Potts (2-32). Southee was the next to fall, run out for a duck as Mitchell turned blind into a second run only to send his doomed partner back as the throw came in.
England still need three further wickets (potentially two, depending on the fitness of Kyle Jamieson who left the field on the third evening with a back injury) early on the fifth and final morning before attempting a no doubt tricky run-chase, but were they to pull it off, they would clinch a 2-0 series win with one Test to play.