ENGLAND’S hopes of winning the Second Test inside three days were foiled by some obdurate New Zealand batting.
The Blackcaps opening pair of Tom Latham and Devon Conway put on 149 for the first wicket in their second innings and then Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls survived until the close.
England star Ben Stokes appeared to be struggling with his left knee
New Zealand foiled England’s hopes of winning Second Test inside three days with some obdurate batting
New Zealand were 202-3 – still 24 runs behind and England remaining favourites to force a seventh straight Test victory.
But England’s position was not as dominant as at the start of play.
And there was continuing concern over the state of Ben Stokes’ left knee.
He bowled two overs of mainly short deliveries, conceded 16 runs and then limped out of the attack.
Stokes was even warned by the umpires for exceeding his permitted ration of two bouncers-per-over.
The captain was obviously in the pain and the chronic problem doesn’t look like going away before this summer’s Ashes series.
Before facing the Aussies, Stokes is due to play in the Indian Premier League – where he has a £1.6million deal with Chennai Super Kings.
In the opening hour of the third day in Wellington, Kiwi captain Tim Southee hit a flurry of sixes on his way to 73 and his team took their total from 138-7 overnight to 209 all out.
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Stuart Broad took all three wickets to fall, ending with four in the innings.
Stokes decided to enforce the follow-on – which is a rarity in Test cricket these days – and believed Jimmy Anderson and Co could again make significant inroads into the home team’s batting.
But left-handers Latham and Conway played with patience and skill and were able to counteract any movement the bowlers extracted from the pitch.
They took their stand to 149 before Conway was snaffled at short leg by the ever-alert Ollie Pope off Jack Leach’s left-arm spin.
Then, three overs later, Latham was lbw to Joe Root’s off-spin. Latham missed a sweep shot and, although he reviewed the decision, replays showed the ball going on to hit off stump.
England were on a roll and had taken three wickets for 18 runs when Will Young was bowled by a beauty from Leach.
But master batsman Williamson and leftie Nicholls held on until the close and have so far put on 35 runs in 21.2 overs.
New Zealand’s gritty, defensive batting was a direct contrast to the Bazball methods employed by England – but it was proving effective.
England assistant-coach Paul Colllingwood said: “New Zealand have fought really hard and it was an enthralling day of cricket and plenty of toil for us.
“That counter-attack by Tim Southee was very effective and we didn’t get the wickets we hoped for. But we’re still in a good position.
“Stokesy was always thinking of enforcing the follow-on.
“He believed it was the positive approach and he was trying to win the match today. His knee issue is always there but he knows how to manage it.
“He is always willing to bowl but he puts faith in the other bowlers.
“This pitch has done plenty in the morning session so hopefully, with some fresh legs tomorrow, we can make some breakthroughs.”