Mount Maunganui (AFP): Ben Duckett and Harry Brook struck blistering half-centuries as England declared their innings at 325-9 late on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui on Thursday.
England captain Ben Stokes instructed his lower order batsmen to throw the bat before calling them in, leaving about an hour to bowl at the Black Caps under lights with a new pink ball.
The ploy came as no surprise as the tourists opened the two-Test series with the sort of attacking approach, dubbed “Bazball”, that has carried them to nine wins from their past 10 Tests under Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
Their run rate hovered just below six per over throughout most of an innings that lasted just 58.2 overs and featured 48 fours and one towering six from Brook off the bowling of New Zealand captain Tim Southee who was lashed for 2-71 from 13 overs.
New Zealand’s depleted attack fought back midway through the second session when Ollie Pope, Joe Root and Stokes fell in quick succession, allowing debut pace bowlers Blair Tickner (1-72) and Scott Kuggeleijn (2-80) to claim their maiden Test wickets.
However, momentum was snatched back by the in-form Brook who accelerated to 89 off 81 balls.
Playing just his fifth Test, Brook was poised to become only the second England batsman after Ken Barrington in the 1960s to hit centuries in four consecutive Tests.
However, he played on to Neil Wagner (4-82), the veteran seamer benefiting from England’s wild approach to the end of their innings.
Like Brook, Duckett was a revelation during the 3-0 series win in Pakistan two months ago and he maintained his hot streak with 84 off 68 balls.
The hard-hitting opener had a chance of scoring England’s fastest Test century — surpassing Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball knock against Australia in 1902 — before he fell to Tickner late in the first session.
Southee, leading his country at home for the first time, asked England to bat with the hope of exploiting the pink ball’s swing on a green-tinged pitch that had been covered for days because of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Their best spell came when Pope departed for 42 and Root for 14 in the space of four balls, followed soon afterwards by captain Stokes for 19.
Most of the wickets fell to aggressive shotmaking, including Root’s, whose attempt at a reverse lap off Wagner was steered straight into the slip cordon.
Preparations for both sides had been disrupted by the storms that hit New Zealand and triggered a national state of emergency on Tuesday but Mount Maunganui avoided significant damage and play started on time.
Scoreboard after England declared in their first innings on the first day of the first Test against New Zealand at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Thursday:
England 1st innings
Z. Crawley c Bracewell b Southee 4
B. Duckett c Bracewell b Tickner 84
O. Pope c Latham b Southee 42
J. Root c Mitchell b Wagner 14
H. Brook b Wagner 89
B. Stokes c Latham b Kuggeleijn 19
B. Foakes c Williamson b Wagner 38
S. Broad c Conway b Kuggeleijn 2
O. Robinson not out 15
J. Leach c Latham b Wagner 1
Extras (lb7, nb6, w4) 17
Total (9 wkts, 58.2 overs) 325/d
Fall of wickets: 1-18 (Crawley), 2-117 (Duckett), 3-152 (Pope), 4-154 (Root), 5-209 (Stokes), 6-298 (Brook), 7-305 (Broad), 8-319 (Foakes), 9-325 (Leach)
Did not bat: J. Anderson
Bowling: Southee 13-1-71-2, Wagner 16.2-0-82-4 (5nb), Tickner 13-0-72-1 (1nb), Kuggeleijn 13-0-80-2 (4w), Bracewell 3-0-13-0
Toss: New Zealand
Umpires: Chris Gaffaney (NZL), Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV umpire: Rod Tucker (AUS)
Match referee: David Boon (AUS)