Mount Maunganui (Agencies): Stuart Broad razed New Zealand’s top order with a destructive opening spell on Saturday to put England on the verge of winning the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Broad claimed four wickets under lights — all clean bowled — to reduce the Black Caps’ second innings to 63-5 at stumps on day three, with hopes of reaching their winning target of 394 all but extinguished.
England have two full days to claim the remaining five wickets at the Bay Oval and go one-up in the two-match series — completing a 10th win in their last 11 Tests in the process.
In a match largely dominated by aggressive batting, Broad got the pink ball to zip sideways to devastating effect, removing arguably New Zealand’s four best batsmen to take 4-21 off 10 unrelenting overs.
Openers Devon Conway (2) and Tom Latham (15) both had their off-stumps disturbed while a scoreless Kane Williamson couldn’t defend his middle stump.
Ollie Robinson had Henry Nicholls (7) caught behind before first-innings centurion Tom Blundell was also cleaned out by Broad, for one. The 36-year-old Broad admitted conditions were set up perfectly.
“It’s just a different pitch to bowl on in the lights,” he said. “You go into a rhythm of not over-complicating, not thinking too much. “I was looking to bowl the same ball, whoever I was bowling against and getting a wicket early just settles me.
“Once I got Conway, I felt like it could be my day.” Daryl Mitchell will resume on 13 and Michael Bracewell on 25 on Sunday. Adding to the celebrations for Broad, he and long-time new-ball partner James Anderson became the most prolific bowling partnership in Test cricket.
The evergreen pair have taken 1,004 scalps between them in 133 Tests played together, surpassing the 1,001 shared by Australia’s Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 104 games together. Broad was relieved the pair were still hitting high standards, particularly as both had played limited cricket last year.
His previous Test appearance was six months ago, having skipped the 3-0 series win in Pakistan late last year because of the birth of his child. “I’ve not played since September so it’s nice to feel I’ve contributed,” he said.
“All our talk was ‘inroads tonight’ because we knew if we could get their quality batters out early in conditions that suit us, it can set the Test match up.”
With fine weather forecast for the last two days, England should march to their first win on New Zealand soil since 2008, having drawn five and lost two of the seven Tests since. Resuming at 79-2, they plundered 158 runs in the first two hours before wicketkeeper Ben Foakes’ controlled 51 steered their second innings to 374.
Ollie Pope scored 49, Joe Root 57 and Harry Brook 54, all unfurling the sort of fearless batting that has become an England hallmark under the “Bazball” attacking methods adopted when coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes took charge last year. Stokes contributed a lusty 31, in the process overtaking McCullum as the outright record holder for the most sixes struck in Test cricket.
He hoisted the 108th six of his career when hooking seamer Scott Kuggeleijn over fine leg. Stoke hit one more six before being stumped off spinner Michael Bracewell (3-68), typically trying to force the pace. Most other England wickets fell when taking risks, with Root’s dismissal the most blatant.
He was caught in the slips after mistiming a reverse sweep for the second time in the match.
New Zealand’s Neil Wagner was targeted ruthlessly, at one stage recording figures of 2-104 — the most runs any bowler has conceded from their first 11 overs of an innings in Test history.
Wagner paid a heavy price for persisting with short-pitched bowling, conceding 12 fours and six sixes, the vast majority through cross-batted shots.
Brook and Root put on 81 for the fifth wicket in less than 11 overs before Brook was caught behind off seamer Blair Tickner (3-55).