England captain Ben Stokes rode his luck as he combined with predecessor Joe Root in a thrilling rally at Lord’s on Saturday to set up a dramatic finish to the first Test against New Zealand.
England were 216 for five at stumps on the third day, needing just 61 more runs to reach a victory target of 277 but with no more recognised batsmen left to come in.
In what is Stokes’ first match as skipper since succeeding Root, England collapsed in familiar fashion to be 69 for four, with towering paceman Kyle Jamieson taking four for 49.
Stokes himself might have been out for one after playing on to opposing all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, only to be reprieved by a marginal no-ball call.
He then celebrated his 31st birthday with a dashing 54 – England’s first fifty of this match – while star batsman Root was 77 not out at stumps after the close friends had put on 90 for the fifth wicket.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes then kept Root company with an unbeaten nine off 48 balls.
England, bottom of the World Test Championship table after winning just one of their previous 17 matches, now have a chance to take a 1-0 lead in this three-match series.
Earlier, England great Stuart Broad sparked a sensational New Zealand collapse after Daryl Mitchell made a hundred as the World Test champions, who had been 251 for four, were dismissed for 285.
But by then Mitchell, who made 108, and Tom Blundell (96) had shared a stand of 195 – more than either New Zealand (132) or England (141) managed in their first innings.
Mitchell insisted the hosts would have their work cut out on Sunday in what is also former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum’s first match as England’s Test coach.
“The morning is the toughest time to bat,” Mitchell told BBC Radio. “Hopefully, the ball will zip around and it will give us the opportunity to win the match.
“We know that we are one wicket away from being into their bowlers.”
- ‘Game on’ -
Broad, meanwhile, was glad England were back in the match.
“It’s game on, isn’t it?” he said. “Stokesy played a really good knock and if he was still in, it would be close to game over but it was great bowling from Jamieson.”
He added: “Root has been so reliable for years, he calms the dressing room down, and holds the key tomorrow (Sunday).”
Jamieson removed openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley before Ollie Pope fell cheaply for the second time this match, bowled by a superb ball from left-arm quick Trent Boult.
And when Jamieson cleaned up Jonny Bairstow, England were reeling at 69 for four on a good pitch and in sunny conditions seemingly ideal for batting.
New Zealand were a bowler down when the unlucky de Grandhomme went off with a heel injury and left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who had taken all 10 India wickets in his last Test in Mumbai in December, saw Stokes slog-sweep a six off just his second delivery on Saturday.
But Stokes, trying to uppercut a rising short ball from Jamieson that cramped him for roon, feathered a catch to wicketkeeper Blundell.
The unobtrusive Root then completed a 107-ball fifty, taking one ball more to get to the landmark than Stokes.
New Zealand had resumed on 236 for four, a lead of 227.
Mitchell was 97 not out overnight and Blundell unbeaten on 90 after they had come together with the Black Caps in trouble at 56 for four.
The 31-year-old wasted no time in reaching his second Test century and first abroad, driving Broad for three from his first ball Saturday to bring up a 189-ball hundred including 11 fours.
After waiting 366 deliveries to take the fifth wicket, England then astonishingly collected three in three balls.
Broad, recalled with James Anderson after England’s two all-time leading Test wicket-takers were controversially left out of a series loss in the Caribbean, had Mitchell caught behind and bowled Jamieson either side of Pope running out de Grandhomme.
Blundell, a helpless observer as the wickets tumbled, took his score to 96 only to fall short of a hundred when plumb lbw to Anderson.
(Report by AFP)