NOTTINGHAM: Daryl Mitchell led the New Zealand charge as the tourists powered to 318-4 against England by close of play on the first day of the second Test here at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Mitchell’s aggressive 81 not out and an unbeaten 67 from Tom Blundell made England captain Ben Stokes pay for his decision to bowl first on a flat pitch.
England’s wounds were mostly self-inflicted, with three dropped catches as the bowling and fielding flaws that plagued them in recent months returned with a vengeance.
World Test champions New Zealand, who lost a gripping first Test at Lord’s, were without Covid-hit Kane Williamson after the skipper was ruled out on Thursday evening.
Despite Williamson’s absence, the Kiwis punished some wayward England bowling, with Mitchell and Blundell amassing an undefeated 149-run partnership after Tom Latham and Will Young put on 84 for the first wicket.
Stokes dismissed Young for 47 and, the very next ball, stand-in skipper Latham fell to James Anderson for 26.
But New Zealand stayed positive, continuing to find the boundaries regularly as Devon Conway (46) and Tom Nicholls (30) kept the visitors on top.
Nicholls eventually edged Stokes to wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, who also took the catch when Conway nicked one behind soon afterwards off Anderson.
Latham admitted he would also have bowled first given the chance, but said he might be reconsidering that verdict after his team seized control in emphatic fashion.
“We certainly would have taken that. We were quite keen to bowl first as well this morning but, after losing the toss, we thought putting on 300 in a day on a wicket like that is actually a very good effort,” Conway said.
“The pitch played a lot better than it looked. There was a little bit of swing for the bowlers at times but it was a pretty true, good surface.”
Mitchell hit nine fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 81.
Mitchell had just three runs when he was dropped by Joe Root off Stokes. He took full advantage, following the century he bagged at Lord’s with another crucial innings.
New Zealand were scoring at nearly four runs an over, a rapid rate that served to underline England’s frustration at the injuries to quicks Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
Stuart Broad tried a barrage of short balls to Mitchell but the batsman fought fire with fire and hooked for six to complete the hundred partnership.
Root’s brilliant century inspired England’s first Test win, but he was doing more damage to his own side’s cause this time and he dropped another catch, this one a tricky chance when Blundell edged Leach on 47.
A curious failed England appeal for lbw against Blundell when he clearly hit the ball summed up their growing desperation.
On a day to forget for England, Broad was left howling in frustration after Blundell’s edge into the slips was missed by Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow.
Stokes and new coach Brendon McCullum are looking to build on England’s thrilling five-wicket win against the Test world champions in the first game of the three-match series.
That was a much-needed morale boost after the gloomy end of Root’s spell as Test captain.
England are chasing a first series victory since January 2021, but they have an uphill climb after this sloppy first day.
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings):
T. Latham c Potts b Anderson 26
W. Young c Crawley b Stokes 47
D. Conway c Foakes b Anderson 46
H. Nicholls c Foakes b Stokes 30
D. Mitchell not out 81
T. Blundell not out 67
EXTRAS (LB-16, NB-5) 21
TOTAL (for four wkts, 87 overs) 318
STILL TO BAT: M. Bracewell, K. Jamieson, T. Southee, M. Henry, T. Boult
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-84 (Young), 2-84 (Latham), 3-161 (Nicholls), 4-169 (Conway)
BOWLING: Anderson 18-6-42-2; Broad 18-4-74-0 (1nb); Potts 18-4-69-0; Stokes 12-0-40-2 (4nb); Leach 18-3-62-0; Root 3-0-15-0
ENGLAND: Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wkt), Matthew Potts, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2022