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Ben Foakes predicted “one hell of a day” lay in store at Trent Bridge after England and New Zealand traded blows to leave the second LV= Insurance Test up for grabs.
After both sides pounded out big first-innings scores – the tourists narrowly ahead with 553 to versus 539 – the game accelerated sharply on day four.
England produced the best bowling display of the match so far to reduce the Kiwis to an overnight score of 224 for seven, and will not be daunted by the current deficit of 238.
There is a clear route to victory for both sides, while a seemingly unwanted draw looms in the background. Nottinghamshire have made tickets free for the conclusion, hoping to draw a crowd that could help roar England across the line.
Foakes, who was batting with Joe Root when England chased down 277 at Lord’s to seal the first Test, said: “It should be one hell of a day. I think it’s gonna be a great one.
“So much has happened so quickly that all three results are now in play. It’s been a fantastic game. It’s obviously taken a while to get here but it is a great prospect ahead.
“With the score being 1-0 they’ve taken the positive approach and that’s the way a lot of modern cricketers back their game. They’ve given themselves the chance to, but it’s obviously given us a chance as well.”
Just how hard England have to go with the bat depends on the final equation of runs and overs available. But it seems inconceivable, given the attacking words of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum since their respective appointments, that they will do anything other than go all out to triumph.
Invited to ponder what kind of target his side might fancy, Foakes said: “Realistically, with how fast it’s been scoring here, anything under 300 you’d say would be quite doable if you bat really well.
“But with some of the guys we have in the dressing room, like Stokesy, it could be anything really. You just have no idea. It is so positive up there (in the dressing room). Obviously there will be hard times, tough games. But the message is always to back yourself, to take the positive option, play that style of cricket.”
Michael Bracewell, who is making his debut in what could be a classic Test match, insisted New Zealand had always been angling for a positive result.
“We like to play positive as a side and we try to win games of Test cricket. The plan is to get out there and be super positive,” he said.
“The draw sort of comes in if the win is not possible rather than the other way around. We want to win a series against England.”
New Zealand seamer Kyle Jamieson, who has been receiving treatment for back pain, is ready to bat for the cause but is unlikely to play any part with the ball, reducing the Black Caps’ options in the field.