New Zealand 86 for 2 (Latham 51*, Taylor 21*) v England
After a chaotic build-up to the second Test, England’s cricketers bagged two early wickets on the first morning- including the vital scalp of Kane Williamson – to give themselves a chance of setting the agenda in Hamilton.
By lunch, New Zealand had pushed along to 86 for 2, with Tom Latham looking unruffled on 51 not out. However, with Stuart Broad and the recalled Chris Woakes claiming a wicket apiece, the session was arguably England’s best since the opening day of the series at Mount Maunganui last week.
Then again, with next to no swing on offer, England’s decision to ditch their solitary spinner, Jack Leach, in favour of the fifth seamer in Woakes, was one that could yet come back to haunt them – just as it did on the last occasion they opted for an all-seam attack, against South Africa at Headingley in 2012.
That selection was not even the most eyebrow-raising of the day. Having at times featured as many specialist wicketkeepers in their Test team as fast bowlers, England’s decision to omit both Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes from the New Zealand tour party left them short of options after Jos Buttler suffered a back strain during a gym session in the build-up to the Test.
And so, as had been telegraphed on the eve of the game, Ollie Pope was handed the gloves in only the second Test of his comeback to the team, with Kent’s Zak Crawley earning a debut at No.6.
Crawley was handed his cap before the start of play by his county team-mate Joe Denly, while his first notable taste of action was an unfortunately hyperactive shy at the stumps that fizzed away for four byes.
Pope, by contrast, looked the part behind the stumps, having had just five first-class matches in the role prior to this opportunity. But he’ll probably be hoping not to have to spend 201 overs in the squat position, as had been Buttler’s fate in the first Test.
England’s seamers did their best to ensure that would not be the case with a steady but unspectacular start to their day’s work.
Broad and Jofra Archer opened proceedings with a steadfast line round the wicket to the left-handed openers, Latham and Jeet Raval, who was the day’s first casualty when he flashed at a length ball outside off, and scuffed a flat-footed drive to Root at first slip for 5.
Latham, who is looking as versatile an opener as currently exists in world cricket, soon proved to be the bedrock of New Zealand’s innings as he brought up an 87-ball fifty with the final ball of the session. However, he wasn’t afraid to cash in when the opportunity arose, particularly when Sam Curran strayed repetitively onto his toes in search of that elusive swing.
Latham did have one massive scare on the over before lunch, as Woakes nipped one into his pads on 49, and extracted an lbw verdict from an uncertain umpire Dharmasena. Ross Taylor, at the non-striker’s end, instantly called for the review, and sure enough the ball was shown to be pitching outside leg.
Woakes, no fan of the Kookaburra ball, was unable to find much lateral movement throughout a probing morning’s work. But nevertheless, he found just enough when it mattered, with a tight line to Williamson and just a notch of extra bounce, to kiss the edge on an off-stump line and give Root his second catch of the morning, low to his right.