NOTTINGHAM: England pegged back free-scoring New Zealand on the opening day of the second Test at Trent Bridge on Friday, with the visitors reaching 195-4 at the tea interval.
The Kiwis, without Covid-hit captain Kane Williamson, were motoring along at 161-2 at one stage but England struck twice to remove Henry Nicholls and Devon Conway.
Daryl Mitchell was 20 not out at the break, with Tom Blundell unbeaten on seven, but the visitors will be frustrated that none of their batsmen capitalised on good starts.
World Test champions New Zealand, who lost a gripping first Test at Lord’s, were put in to bat under cloudy skies in Nottingham by home captain Ben Stokes.
But they took advantage of some wayward bowling on a pitch lacking venom, with Tom Latham and Will Young putting on 84 for the first wicket at roughly four an over.
Seamer Stokes dragged England back into it when he dismissed Young for 47 and the very next ball, stand-in skipper Latham fell to James Anderson for 26.
Despite those setbacks, New Zealand stayed positive, continuing to find the boundaries regularly as Conway and Nicholls reached the interval with no further losses.
The two players came out after lunch with a similar positive mindset, Conway hitting Stuart Broad for fours in consecutive deliveries.
Nicholls was given a huge let-off when Zak Crawley dropped a chance at second slip off Broad.
But all-rounder Stokes struck again in the 39th over when Nicholls, on 30, got an edge to a ball that nipped away off the seam and England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes took the catch.
Conway was dismissed soon afterwards for 46, with Foakes again taking the catch to give Anderson his second wicket.
Former skipper Joe Root, fielding at first slip, dropped Mitchell off Stokes in the following over as England missed the chance to really turn the screw.
Stokes and new coach Brendon McCullum are looking to build on England’s thrilling five-wicket win against the Test world champions in the first game of the three-match series.
That was a much-needed morale boost after the gloomy end of Root’s spell as Test captain and Stokes had emphasised his desire for England to continue playing with the unfettered positivity they showed at Lord’s.
England, seeking a first series victory since January 2021, wanted a fast start from pace bowlers Anderson and Broad but the visitors seized the initiative.
Latham admitted he would also have bowled first given the chance, but he might have reconsidered that verdict after just a few overs.
The batsman had taken over as skipper after Williamson was ruled out following a positive coronavirus test on Thursday.
The New Zealand openers quickly found their rhythm in the early overs despite some risky running between the wickets.
Stokes turned to spinner Jack Leach – fit after suffering a concussion at Lord’s – after his pacemen failed to force the breakthrough.
But it was the skipper who made the breakthrough as he induced a thick edge from Young and Crawley stooped for a low catch at second slip.
After dominating the opening session, New Zealand ceded the momentum the following ball as Latham played a rash pull off a short Anderson delivery and Potts sprawled to make a fine catch at mid-wicket.