Dinner: New Zealand 88 for 1 (Williamson 59*, Latham 26*) England 58 (Boult 6-32, Southee 4-25)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In any conditions, facing swing bowling has its challenges. Against a swing bowler with pace, accuracy and mastery over his craft, that task gets exponentially harder. England found this out on the first afternoon with the pink ball in Auckland, and how, blown away for 58 at the hands of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Such was their dominance that by the dinner break, New Zealand earned a lead of 30 runs with nine wickets remaining, their batting charge led by captain Kane Williamson’s delectable, unbeaten 59.
Boult is usually in the mid-130kmph range, but his nagging precision gives batsmen lesser time to react. He is also a smart bowler, often using the width of the crease and angles, to set up batsmen. He used all those characteristics, not merely to set England up, but to send them tumbling on their way to their sixth-lowest Test total.
At the other end, Southee provided ample support, using his own modus operandi – subtle changes in line, length, pace and movement – to nip out figures of 4 for 25 to complement Boult’s 6 for 32. New Zealand didn’t require any other bowler, and it was only because of No. 9 Craig Overton’s freewheeling 25-ball 33 that England didn’t fall to their lowest total ever.
First to go, after a relatively solid start, was Alastair Cook. Boult, using the width of the crease and enough lateral movement, found Cook’s outside edge, the catch taken comfortably at second slip. Then, Joe Root, having moved to No. 3 after leaving out James Vince after a sub-par Ashes, was bowled through a massive gap between bat and pad. Boult’s late movement had accounted for England’s best Test batsmen. With the ball still moving, in the air and off the pitch, against two bowlers on the top of their game, did the rest even have a chance?
Dawid Malan was next, similarly undone by Boult’s angle and late away swing, the only difference being a thinner edge was taken by the wicketkeeper BJ Watling, diving in front of first slip. Ben Stokes, returning to Tests after six months, was intent on seeing Boult’s spell out. Off his eighth delivery, Boult went wide of the crease again. Stokes, aware of the angle that dismissed Cook and Malan, shaped to leave, but Boult brought one back in sharply to hit off stump by the time Stokes even thought of bringing his bat down.
Boult would also get Chris Woakes, bowled through the gate, and James Anderson, merely tapping a short delivery to point, finishing with his best Test returns.
Bowling in partnerships has always been New Zealand’s strength in the last few years. Two quality new-ball bowlers meant England never had free run-scoring opportunities. Southee, too, found sufficient but not exaggerated movement. His first wicket was Mark Stoneman, edging to the keeper, off an outswinger. His third wicket was Moeen Ali, bowled through the gate, off an inswinger. In between was Jonny Bairstow, chipping a catch back to the bowler.
His fourth wicket though was down to the fielding, another of New Zealand’s assets. Stuart Broad’s leaden-footed drive seemed set for the third-man boundary, but Kane Williamson flew to his left from gully, both feet off the ground, and clung on to the catch. Broad’s wry smile and aghast expression summed up the afternoon for England. Their innings had lasted as long as a Twenty20 innings.
In reply, James Anderson gave England some hope when he had Jeet Raval caught behind off an outswinger that moved away appreciably. Swing and seam ceased thereafter. Latham and Kane Williamson first got through the opening spells of each of England’s fast bowlers, but the shackles were released when Moeen Ali was brought on.
In his first over, the 21st of the innings, Williamson lofted Ali over long-on for six and then drilled him straight for four two balls later.