England’s bowlers teed up a grandstand finish to the second LV= Insurance Test against New Zealand, with a rousing effort on day four opening the door to a classic conclusion at Trent Bridge.
New Zealand closed 238 ahead on 224 for seven, with a lead that leaves every possible result up for grabs including the tantalising possibility of a series-winning chase for Ben Stokes’ men.
Nottinghamshire have thrown their doors open on day five, offering free admission to see what could be a memorable day of cricket, enabled by the kind of passionate, proactive play Stokes has demanded since inheriting the captaincy at the start of the summer.
England were bowled out for 539 midway through the morning session after losing five for 66, leaving themselves 14 behind.
Despite the deficit, they had batted with such courage, going at a rollicking run-rate of 4.2 over 120 overs, that they still had time to shape the game. Joe Root, finally dismissed for a wonderful 176, had much to do with that.
James Anderson was also in the mood to seize the moment, scattering the stumps of visiting captain Tom Latham with his fifth ball of the day to reach 650 Test wickets and set the hares running.
New Zealand battled well in the afternoon session but lost five men after tea as England bowled and fielded hungrily, sensing a chance to push for victory. Matthew Potts took two, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach one apiece and a pair of run outs added the icing on the cake.
Anderson was the last English batter to fall in a lively morning session that showed both sides’ commitment to move things along and quickly had a fresh Dukes ball in his hand.
At the start of his over, spin greats Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan were the only men to have reached the 650 milestone; by the end of it the 39-year-old had joined them.
Latham offered no shot as Anderson roared in from round the wicket, watching in horror as the ball crashed into the middle and off stumps.
Anderson and Broad did everything they could to nip out another, zipping the ball around lavishly off the seam. Any one of a handful of deliveries might have done the trick, but Will Young and Devon Conway gritted their teeth and played for the break on 27 for one.
The Black Caps duo got their rewards for seeing the shine off the ball, growing in comfort during an afternoon session that saw their partnership swell to exactly 100. Both played Leach smartly, sizing the left-armer up before becoming more ambitious.
At one stage he leaked five boundaries in nine balls, Young using his feet to dump him twice over the infield and Conway showing great precision to pick out three different gaps.
Conway looked in great touch, reverse-sweeping Leach four times to the ropes, but gave it away immediately after passing fifty when a slog-sweep sailed to Jonny Bairstow off the top edge.
New Zealand lost their composure after tea, Henry Nicholls slashing Potts to point moments after the resumption before Young was run out for 49.
His poor call and momentary hesitation created the opening, but a sharp, flat throw from Ollie Pope and a diving, no-look flick of the bails from Stokes ensured it did not go to waste.
Still just 146 behind, England were once again simmering when Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell came together, fresh from back-to-back century stands. They held the fort for 18 overs before Blundell wavered, flapping a Broad bumper to Stokes at square-leg.
New Zealand have a hard-won reputation for keeping cool heads in the longest format of the game, but in their attempts to pump their lead up and raise their own prospects of victory, they made more self-inflicted errors before the end.
Michael Bracewell was nicely placed on 24 when he took a step down the pitch at Potts and hacked a catch to Broad at mid-on, before Tim Southee was run out for a duck as he and Mitchell lost their radar.
That completed a miserable day for Southee, who had earlier completed career-worst bowling figures of nought for 154 and been on the receiving end of an outrageous piece of batting from the imperious Root.
With a magnificent 163 under his belt overnight and facing just his second ball of the morning, he reversed the bat in his hands and stooped to scoop the 80mph seamer over his shoulder, over the slips and all the way over the third-man boundary for six.
For a player renowned as one of the game’s foremost classicists, it was a moment of remarkable piece of innovative thinking and the high point of a scrappy conclusion to the innings.
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