Stuart Broad burst puts England in command before New Zealand dig in


Christchurch :-BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme, the Little and Large of Kiwi cricket, mounted a fine recovery on the second day at the Hagley Oval just when England sensed that everything was falling into place after the most frustrating of winters.

After the removal of Kane Williamson 10 minutes after lunch, New Zealand were 36 for five in response to England’s 307. Stuart Broad, having used that new Kookaburra so effectively – how dare anyone suggest removing it from his grasp? – had taken three wickets in his opening spell, while Jimmy Anderson had snaffled the other two. An end to England’s dismal run overseas was on the horizon.

But as that chameleon Kookaburra lost its devious qualities Watling and De Grandhomme combined to add 142 for the sixth wicket to keep New Zealand in what should now be a fascinating Test match. Watling has performed these rescue acts on numerous occasions for New Zealand, but this was new territory for De Grandhomme. He has scored a Test century, 105 against West Indies last December, but it only took him 74 balls. Here he displayed patience that no one was sure he possessed.

De Grandhomme began rapidly with three boundaries from pull shots off Mark Wood, who was exploring the middle of the pitch as frequently as Neil Wagner. After 33 balls he had 31 runs. But then the big man bided his time; he would not be tempted. Meanwhile, Watling busied himself with shots of all varieties square of the wicket. Eventually England’s four-man attack was augmented by Ben Stokes, who propelled three lively overs off a shortened run, but it was the persevering Broad, who finally ended the partnership. De Grandhomme’s magnificent crawl to 72 had occupied 151 balls.

Initially New Zealand had been becalmed and bewildered against England’s veteran pace attack. Broad bowled full enough to induce the drive and Tom Latham obliged. A thin edge sped into Jonny Bairstow’s glove. Jeet Raval played and missed frequently against Anderson and eventually the ball kissed his outside edge as well.

Neither Ross Taylor nor Henry Nicholls could stem the slide. Taylor drove against Broad and was neatly caught by Alastair Cook at first slip; Nicholls was stuck on the crease and lbw, though, surprisingly, England had to review to win that decision. With New Zealand 17 for four the tourists were cock-a-hoop although they would have been even happier if a review against Kane Williamson had been successful. Looking at the replays it was a surprise when it was not granted but the ball was deemed to have hit Williamson’s pad just outside the line of off-stump.

Yet Williamson could not glue the innings together this time. He was dismissed in a familiar manner in this series, caught down the leg-side against a pace bowle. Watling, as ever, stayed calm and, after his early flurry, De Grandhomme dug in with unprecedented self-denial. Eventually late in the final session Broad found the edge of De Grandhomme’s bat, thereby ending his longest Test innings. After his dismissal Tim Southee, though inconvenienced by the odd bouncer, stayed with Watling so that New Zealand finished the day on 192 for six.

Dark clouds roll over Hagley Oval during day two of the second Test.

For England Broad enjoyed his best day of the winter, bowling full and finding just enough movement off the pitch to find those edges. Root’s instincts to toss him the new ball alongside Anderson for the 150th time in Test cricket – second on this list are Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram on a paltry 89 (thank you, Andrew Sansom) – had been quickly justified. Anderson was Anderson. Meanwhile, the newcomers were wicketless.

Mark Wood generated impressive pace and hit Watling on the helmet from around the wicket. He bowled a lot of bouncers as the innings progressed, which disturbed Watling more than De Grandhomme. Likewise Jack Leach bowled competently on his debut, twice beating the outside edge in the classic manner. Perhaps he grew impatient, especially against Watling, when he opted to go over the wicket.

Leach had batted competently too in the morning, long enough for Bairstow to score the three runs needed to reach his fifth Test century. Then, after the addition of 17 runs to England’s total, Leach edged Southee to the keeper. In the next over Bairstow was caught at fly slip off a bouncer from Trent Boult. As in England’s first innings at Auckland Southee and Boult had taken all 10 wickets. So far it has been a match for senior bowlers who have got their hands on the new ball.

Afterwards Broad, who finished the day with figures of 4-38 said: “That’s the best rhythm I’ve been in for a couple of years. We talked about bowling a slightly fuller length with the new ball. Our opening batsmen said this was tricky and we committed to do that, which meant that we were prepared to give away a few more runs early on.”

Broad also hinted at a greater flexibility within the bowling unit. “We’ve looked at what they have been doing to us, which meant that there was more short-pitched bowling [mostly from Wood].” On Saturday he passed the number of Test wickets taken by Curtley Ambrose – “one of my inspirations” – and there is clearly a spring in his step after his disappointing Ashes series.

He is now so confident that he is happy to admit, “I was rubbish in Oz. I had to improve and I think I have.” He says that he has not been working on dry technique under the supervision of coaches since then; working on his own he has concentrated more on “getting the feeling back”. The outcome appears to be that he is finding more bounce and zip off the wicket. “I’m only 31,” he said. “I think I’ve still got a lot to offer.”

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