New Zealand trail by 399 runs with seven first innings wickets in hand.
England took control of the game, not without a wobble or two along the way.
This was in essence, a day which neatly illustrated the ebb and flow of Test cricket. Jonathan Trott took to the crease with his sights on a third Test double century; as it turned out, he fell to the very first ball that he faced. Kevin Pietersen arrived with familiar speculation as to his form following a substandard first Test; he promptly played fluently and seemed destined to become England’s third centurion of the innings, before slogging Bruce Martin straight up in the air. Craig Kieswetter looked on admiringly from his sofa. With Ian Bell and Joe “10,000 Test runs” Root both getting themselves out to inexplicably poor shots, New Zealand suddenly had taken five English wickets for just over 100 runs and the day had swung their way.
Enter one Matthew James Prior who did what he so often does, and dug England out of a mess largely of their own making. His 82, made at a more than healthy strike rate, brought momentum back to the tourists and only some late order burgling of wickets by Kane Williamson stopped a charge towards 500 that looked unlikely shortly after lunch. Steven Finn did his now customary job of hanging around for an age and annoying both the fielding side and a load of commentators. Good work that man.
New Zealand bowled with their customary gusto and bustle, but on a pitch offering little this was always likely to be a case of England’s batsmen getting themselves out rather than falling to well-laid plans and sublime bowling. Bruce Martin picked up another four wickets, which will please his brother Philip who has struggled for work since leaving Ramsey Street. Perhaps he too should try the art of left-arm filth as it appears all you have to do is turn up against England and you look vaguely international class. Neil Wagner looked tired towards the end after his mammoth efforts in Dunedin and was puzzlingly chosen to bowl into the wind towards the end of the innings, which was promptly rewarded with a couple of huge Prior sixes. He’ll be disappointed with that. Tim Southee was wicketless, unthreatening and slightly too buck-toothed to be featured in the 51allout 2014 calendar.
The home batsmen hadn’t faced a delivery for well in excess of 300 overs and it showed as Peter Fulton in particular showed off his “poor technique for a big man” style against the England seamers. He was soon dismissed by James Anderson and although Hamish Rutherford and Kane Williamson showed resistance in a tough final session, the former was eventually dismissed by Broad who followed this up by bowling ex-captain and ex-batsman Ross Taylor for a duck. Monty Panesar will have looked upon Martin’s efforts with interest, but as so often he bowled a bit too quickly and offered little threat. Sometimes he resembles Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates where he immediately forgets everything he’s learned in the very recent past. Though only in terms of plot motif, not in terms of sexual allure. Not quite, anyway. Presumably that makes Andy Flower Adam Sandler, which is fairly unsettling. Not least for Mr Flower.
Still 399 behind, New Zealand’s first priority is to make the 200 required to avoid the follow-on (thanks, Captain Obvious) as the weather forecast for days four and five has reportedly improved and a result is more likely. Brendan McCullum has not made a Test century since 2010 and it could fall upon his slightly square head and shoulders to lead his team to what could still be tenuous safety. Of England we only ask one thing; don’t bowl short. Especially you, young Mr Broad. We don’t want to lump you in the remake of 50 First Dates as well.