New Zealand’s duo of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor repaired early damage with an unbeaten 68-run stand, ending day four having reduced England’s lead to five.
Sam Curran and Chris Woakes snared the New Zealand openers inside the first nine overs, but Williamson (37*) and Taylor (31*) patiently resurrected the innings, carrying New Zealand to 96/2 at stumps on Monday, 2 December.
The day began with England still trailing by 106 runs in the first innings; the margin steadily reduced as the first session progressed, with the overnight pair of Joe Root and Ollie Pope adopting a conservative run-collecting approach.
Pope, having joined Root late the previous evening, started the day with a few nervous pushes: his first boundary of the innings was an inside-edge that went past the 'keeper.
On a pitch made sluggish by rain, the odd instance of the ball keeping low, or moving off the crack, tested the batsmen, but Root and Pope stayed put. A few under-edges came perilously close to the stumps: Root survived one on 137, inside-edging one onto his back boot, with the ball trickling next to the stumps.
Having spent just under 500 minutes at the crease, Root clipped one off Mitchell Santner to bring up his 150. As lunch approached, Pope grew in confidence. A crunching cut through point, off Daryl Mitchell, put England in the lead.
The pair continued their watchful approach after lunch; four overs into the session, Pope drove Santner through point to bring up his first Test fifty.
Root, at the other end, crept close to his first double hundred since July 2016. The moment came when he tapped one to cover and set off for a quick single, for his maiden double ton as England skipper. Once he crossed the mark, Root pressed on the pedal, launching Mitchell for a six past the sightscreen.
Kane Williamson must be relieved!— ICC (@ICC) December 2, 2019
England all out for 476 as Neil Wagner gets another five-wicket haul. The visitors lost their last five wickets for 21 runs. They lead by 101.#NZvENG SCORECARD 👇https://t.co/eBrKe7xmfM pic.twitter.com/dvVpS2Cr34
Soon after drinks, Wagner's short ball worked. Pope tried to pull one away, but could only reach as far as Jeet Raval at deep square leg, breaking the 193-run stand. Root followed him soon after, going inside-out to Santner, only to find deep cover. He finished on 226; the 441 deliveries he faced were the most by him in a Test innings.
With England slipping from 455/5 to 460/8, Jofra Archer swung a Wagner delivery for six, but was cleaned up by a slower ball right after. Wagner completed his five-wicket haul by deceiving Stuart Broad with another slower one, finishing England’s first innings at 476, 101 runs ahead of the home team.
New Zealand had an edgy start, with the first runs coming from a risky single that almost sent Raval back. He became England’s first wicket, playing the wrong line and being caught plumb in front of the sticks.
Tom Latham, who was dismissed shouldering arms in the first innings, tried to play at one moving away from the body, poking it to second slip to leave New Zealand at 28/2. From there on, Williamson and Taylor engaged in a steady rearguard action. Ben Stokes and Archer slipped in the odd bouncer off back of length, but Williamson and Taylor were equal to the task; Williamson, in particular, acrobatically arched back to Archer’s short offerings. Against Broad and Curran, the duo wasn’t as relenting, picking up boundaries off pull strokes in consecutive overs.
With less than 20 minutes to go, England stationed close-in fielders such as short leg and short mid-on to eke out a catch off a short ball. However, the Williamson-Taylor pair defied their charge for 25 overs.
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