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The powers that be at Trent Bridge announced in the final session of day four that the conclusion of this match on Tuesday would be free to attend. It was a generous decision that reflected their satisfaction with a strong week for the club.
When they announced that decision, it was clear that a good day was in store for those who chose to come along. By stumps, it looked even better: New Zealand enter the final 90 overs on 224 for seven, leading by 238.
It seems certain to go down to the wire in a fixture that both teams still seem intent on winning. New Zealand need to, if they are to win the series. England’s gung-ho approach dictates that they will go after whatever New Zealand set them.
New Zealand, a bowler down with Kyle Jamieson awaiting the results of a scan on his painful back, feel a few runs down, given the class with which Root chased their target last week. They batted carelessly, especially with their running, leaving England smelling blood even if there is no day five declaration. This is a better pitch and a faster scoring ground than Lord’s. Then again, it is England. Anything is possible.
The game moved at a greater pace on Monday, with 12 wickets in the day, as opposed to 15 across the first three.
That is in part down to the acceleration England’s batters attempted in the morning. Joe Root, resuming on 163, and Ben Foakes added 29 in the first four overs, including a series of crisp boundaries from the wicketkeeper. The highlight, though, was Root’s outrageous reverse scoop, as Tim Southee’s figures took a hammering.
Southee finished with none for 154, but his partner in crime, Trent Boult, stuck in beautifully and ended up claiming a five-wicket haul. He added the wickets of Root, caught tamely at cover, and Matt Potts, bowled, to a superb display on day three.
By then, Potts had run Foakes out for 56, his highest Test score since his maiden tour, in 2018, and Stuart Broad – promoted to slog – had been brilliantly caught at slip. When Jimmy Anderson followed a couple of lovely strokes (including the reverse-sweep, of course) by being stumped off Michael Bracewell, England had a deficit of 14 on first innings.
Anderson struck immediately, with Tom Latham becoming his 650th Test victim, bowled shouldering arms. England were flying.
A strong partnership of 100 between Will Young and Devon Conway, both of whom made fifties, as the game settled. Both men played Jack Leach, who found little turn, brillantly, especially on the reverse-sweep. But Ben Stokes persisted, and Conway top-edged Leach to Jonny Bairstow in the deep.
After tea, England struck twice. Henry Nicholls never settled, and cut Potts straight to point, then came the first of the awful run outs involving Daryl Mitchell. Young was sent packing after smart work from Ollie Pope at square leg, and Stokes – bowling an epic spell – who flicked back to the stumps without looking.
Tom Blundell shared another calming partnership with Mitchell, but when Broad prised him out with a bumper New Zealand were back in trouble. Bracewell chanced his arm, but tried one stroke too many, and was caught ay mid-on. England were into the tail, and sharp work from Zak Crawley ran out Southee because of Mitchell’s poor call.
New Zealand will be grateful that Mitchell, who has been so good this series, is still there. Dislodge him early, and England will fancy their chances.