Back in the studio, Alastair Cook says he’d not have enforced the follow-on and rarely did as captain. He reckons the wicket’s flattened out and the bowlers have to keep going, which is tough, but the call makes sense because England need to get 20 wickets.
End of day three: New Zealand trail England by 24 runs with seven second-innings wickets intact
83rd over: New Zealand 201-3 (Williamson 24, Nicholls 18) Williamson needs five more runs to overtake Ross Taylor as NZ’s most prolific Test batter, but he won’t be bothered about making that happen tonight – it can wait until what should be a belter of a tomorrow. Meantime, Robinson bounds in in his slightly awkward style, four slips hoping for an error; Williamson makes sure it’s not his by taking a single to point, then Nicholls plays away four dots. That’s another fine day, and tomorrow should be terrific: there’s a fair bit of responsibility on this partnership but also plenty of batting to come, and both teams will fancy themselves for the win from here.
82nd over: New Zealand 201-3 (Williamson 24, Nicholls 18) I reckon it’ll be this one from Leach, the next one from Robinson, and done for the day. Williamson begins it with one to cover, then Leach pushes Nicholls back with a top-spinner that pushes him back. He’s bowled well this evening. The deficit is 25.
81st over: New Zealand 200-3 (Williamson 23, Nicholls 18) Yup, and it’s Robinson who gets it, his second ball lifting into the pad and hitting Nicholls on the knee-roll off a length; really nice, but going over. So he goes around, then Nicholls punches through mid off and broad hurtles after it, dives, drags it back … and it’s four already. That is not unfunny, but what a competitor – five minutes till the close, 36 years old and work to do tomorrow. Not a well boy.
80th over: New Zealand 196-3 (Williamson 23, Nicholls 14) Williamson comes well down to Leach and gloves one that bounces more than expected into the turf, quickly swiping bat to avoid ball running onto stumps. Maiden, and here – presumably – comes the new ball….
79th over: New Zealand 196-3 (Williamson 23, Nicholls 14) Williamson plays out four dots from Root, then takes a big step towards the pitch and adds one to cover. He’s so calm, totally aware of how good he is in the most prepossessing manner imaginable and regardless of recent travails. One more over, then the new ball.
78th over: New Zealand 195-3 (Williamson 22, Nicholls 14) Another probing over from Leach, it’s penultimate, flatter delivery knocked to cover for one -– the onlu run off the over, and England are sprinting round to get that new sphere. The difference is 31.
77th over: New Zealand 194-3 (Williamson 21, Nicholls 14) Root really should bowl more than he does, conceding just one from this – to Williamson, who knocks to cover. Twenty-two minutes to go, three overs to the new globule.
REVIEW! NOT OUT!
Williamson’s bat was well away from the ball, which brushed his arm guard. So nothing doing this time, but there’s turn and bounce out there…
77th over: New Zealand 193-3 (Williamson 20, Nicholls 14) Root continues, his first delivery draws Williamson forward then pushes him back, and there’s an appeal for a caught behind and the ball rips away from him! Not out says the umpire, so England review! Foakes likes this one!
76th over: New Zealand 193-3 (Williamson 20, Nicholls 14) Nicholls sweeps, misses, and there’s a loud shout from Leach when he hits the pad … but it was outside the line. Then, the final delivery, he goes again, hitting Pope. Maiden.
75th over: New Zealand 193-3 (Williamson 20, Nicholls 14) Root returns, presumably so England can get a few overs in with the new berry this evening, and Nicholls follows his first delivery around the corner for two. In comms, they’re wondering if Stokes has hurt himself, then Nicholls adds a two and a one. He’s batted nicely here.
74th over: New Zealand 188-3 (Williamson 20, Nicholls 9) England should get a couple of overs with the next ball, and are looking for quick change-overs to make sure. Nicholls sweeps Leach for one and there’s minor excitement when Williamson plays him down into the pitch, then again when, after a single, Nicholls inside-edges when looking to bunt into the off side … just shy of an irate Pope’s dive. The partnership is 21, the deficit 38.
73rd over: New Zealand 185-3 (Williamson 19, Nicholls 7) Williamson has started really well, all the calm, authoritative touch-play for which he’s become famous on display. He takes Robinson’s first ball for one to square leg, then Nicholls whiffs at a short one and misses, doing well to keep shoulders in sockets – before adding one to cover.
72nd over: New Zealand 183-3 (Williamson 18, Nicholls 6) Leach continues as in comms, they note that Stokes appears to have more faith in him than Root did. Ultimately, he’s England’s best spinner so if theyr’e going to pick him, they’ve to trust him as they did, say, Ashley Giles. Maiden.
71st over: New Zealand 183-3 (Williamson 18, Nicholls 6) Robinson finds a bit of extra bounce and Nicholls looks one way then gloves, from in front of his coupon to midwicket, where no one is. They run one, and that was a better over from yerman, that ball I described leaping chest-high from off a length. The pitch has misbehaved a little this last hour but England’s lead is just 43.
70th over: New Zealand 182-3 (Williamson 18, Nicholls 5) Williamson flips one to midwicket, then Nicholls presses forward and squirts to Pope at short leg, but all he can do is flick out a hand; the ball bursts his fingers, and a further single follows.
69th over: New Zealand 180-3 (Williamson 17, Nicholls 4) Stokes cycles through his seamers one stage further, again replacing Anderson with Robinson. Williamson takes a single, then in response to come extra bounce, Nicholls leaps to cut and does well to miss. We’re into the last hour and have 11 more overs with the old ball, so might get a couple with the new one right at the end of the day.
68th over: New Zealand 179-3 (Williamson 16, Nicholls 4) Nicholls comes down looking to whack Leach to Neptune, then goes back and twizzles two off the pads. They’re the only runs from the over, and this partnership has started well; hour of the day to go.
67th over: New Zealand 177-3 (Williamson 16, Nicholls 2) You can feel how hard Williamson is battling through the screen – like he owes his side and himself a score, withdrawing the bat as one from Anderson whooshes past off-peg. Maiden, and I’ve a confession to make: at drinks, I monstered the Biscoff spread my nine-year-old is saving to make hamentashen next week. I’m sure she’ll understand: can’t watch Kane Williamson bat hungry!
66th over: New Zealand 177-3 (Williamson 16, Nicholls 2) Friends, we’re at next hour is crucial stage: If NZ can bat the next hour and seven minutes without losing a wicket, the scores will be similar and they’ll have the batters in hand to set something – especially if Williamson is still out there But if England can add two or more wickets, they’ll be strong favourites to close out the series. As we mentioned earlier, the breakthroughs have come more from isolated balls than workings-over, and Leach’s latest over is seen off for two singles easily enough.
65th over: New Zealand 175-3 (Williamson 15, Nicholls 1) Nicholls guides one to midwicket to get away, then Williamson glances four to fine leg. He’s batted nicely so far, positive in defence as well as attack, and that’s drinks.
64th over: New Zealand 170-3 (Williamson 11, Nicholls 0) Williamson cuts hard and they run one; Brook misfields, and they run another. That’s his highest score in the series.
63rd over: New Zealand 168-3 (Williamson 9, Nicholls 0) Even though we’ve been playing cricket for a fair old while, there’s still a raging bunsen misnomer: all a spinner needs is for the ball to do enough, sometimes, to put doubt into the minds of the batters, and that’s what we’ve got here. So full marks to the curators, who’ve prepared a pretty sporting track, and Anderson, who’s got Williamson nine times in 30 matches, sends down five dots before a single to backward square means it’s Williamson on strike again for the next over.
62nd over: New Zealand 167-3 (Williamson 8, Nicholls 0) Suddenly, England can break the back of the match this evening; that’s a wicket-maiden from Leach, who’s been really good since tea. There were signs before, but hew’s found his line since, I think.
WICKET! Young b Leach 8 (New Zealand 167-3)
They’re coming now, and Leach is leading England’s charge! I know! He coaxes another to grip and spin, Young goes back when he should come forward, is diddled by the turn, and can only fence before losing his off-bail! That’s a terrific delivery!
61st over: New Zealand 167-2 (Williamson 8, Young 8) Yeah, I didn’t think it’d be long: Anderson returns, and when he stays straight, Young whips off the toes for three.
Talking of Will Young, by the way, this interview is good. “I quite religiously only look at my diary the night before,” he sagely says. “Living day to day, so I don’t worry about what’s coming up and panic.”
60th over: New Zealand 164-2 (Williamson 8, Young 5) Leach keeps at it and persuades one to grip that then leaps up and away from Young, who fences as it rushes past and top-edges wide of slip! That was a good ball but unfazed, Young cuts a single away and gets down the other end; Williamson then gets a straighter one that still does enough, gripping and spinning past the outside edge! Leach is bowling nicely here…
59th over: New Zealand 163-2 (Williamson 8, Young 4) It’s nice and sunny out in the middle, which suggests we’ll get a full day’s play, so 100 more minutes from here. Oh and that’s very nice, Williamson swivelling on his front foot to pull Broad for four through square leg. He’s due something here, and he’s started confidently … though as I type that, he sort of waves the face then follows one that leaves him. Though it’s slowed up, there’s still a bit in the pitch.
58th over: New Zealand 159-2 (Williamson 4, Young 4) Leach, replacing Root, spins the ball from hand to hand purposefully, but Young plays out a maiden, largely looking to survive.
“Call me old fashioned,” emails Kim Thonger, “but might this game simply be heading for an outcome that used to be perfectly acceptable, an entertaining and honourable draw? And if this trip to New Zealand had three scheduled Test matches we’d still think the third game set up nicely. But there is no third game, and that’s the problem. Two games is not a series? Discuss.”
I agree, but something’s got to give and the players need some rest and home time.
57th over: New Zealand 159-2 (Williamson 4, Young 4) Yup, it’s Broad, but while he races in, let’s note what a fine match this has been – so far – for Joe Root, whose role in the side looks to have been clarified: all the stuff he’s always done. Genius! Young earns three to square leg, and I wonder if we see Anderson from the other end – he got both of these first dig.
56th over: New Zealand 156-2 (Williamson 4, Young 1) Suddenly we’ve got two new men at the crease, the lead is 70 when Young nudges his first ball to extra, and England are on a roll. I daresay we’ll see a quick reintroduced here…
Yup, that’s close – Latham was in line, fractionally – umpire’s call job. One has, as so often and as we postulated earlier, brought two, and it’s the golden arm of England’s golden boy that does the trick this time.
WICKET! Latham lbw b Root 83
Latham gets down on one knee, has a huge mow, misses … and Root charges off clebrappealing like a man who’s learnt from the master, certain he’s got his man. The umpire concurs and the ball hit him on the back thigh, so I reckon that’s gawn, but he reviews…
56th over: New Zealand 155-1 (Latham 83, Williamson 4) Root replaces Broad after just an over and I wonder if we’ll see one of his sneaky bouncers to see if anything happens. Er, we don’t, but….