After a rollercoaster day three of the first Test, Joe Root looks to be the key to England’s chances of success after a tremendous fightback with the ball and an all-too familiar poor start to the run-chase (England 1/4, New Zealand 3/1, Draw 150/1 – First Test Betting).
After a 30-minute delay, the tourists had started Saturday’s action looking to press home the advantage given to them by Daryl Mitchell (97 not out) and Tom Blundell (90 not out), whose 180-run partnership on Friday had given them a 227-run lead at the end of the second day with six first-innings wickets remaining.
Mitchell wasted little time in reaching three figures for the first time in Test cricket, striking the first ball he faced for the necessary runs, but he fell soon after in a dramatic Stuart Broad over that saw three wickets fall in successive balls (one run out) as England dragged themselves back into the contest.
Tim Southee clubbed a rapid 21 as the Black Caps threw the bat late on but he became Matt Parkinson’s first Test scalp when he was the last man out with the side dismissed for 285, setting the hosts a victory target of 277.
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With the pressure not what it perhaps might have been given the overnight total, England started badly in their run chase with Alex Lees (20) misjudging a Kyle Jamieson delivery to be bowled without offering a shot, with Zak Crawley (9), Ollie Pope (10) and Jonny Bairstow (16) quickly following to leave England in trouble at 69-4.
It could have been worse but Ben Stokes was given a reprieve as he was dismissed off a no-ball and he, alongside Root, gradually set about their business.
The England captain smacked three sixes on his way to a half-century but New Zealand gained renewed hope when he gloved behind while attempting an uppercut shot to give Jamieson his third wicket.
England still needed another 110 runs when he fell but will be relieved to have made it through to the close without further loss as Root (77) and Ben Foakes (9) added 57 runs to reduce the task.
Root (11/8 Next Man Market) looked in fine touch all day and he, in particular, is likely to be the decisive factor on Sunday – with the weather expected to play some part – given England’s long tail.
Stokes’ side need 61 more runs to draw first blood in the three-match series on what could be a fascinating fourth day at Lord’s, with the tourists looking for five more wickets.
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