Wellington, Feb 26: Forced to follow on after a disastrous first inning, New Zealand rode on a century-opening partnership between Tom Latham (83) and Devon Conway (61) to put up a defiant fightback in their second innings against England in the second and final Test here on Sunday.
In response to England’s first innings score of 435/8 declared, New Zealand was bundled out for 209 in their first innings with pacer Stuart Broad wiping off their tail with a three-wicket burst on the third morning at the Basin Reserve here.
Trailing by 226 runs, New Zealand came up with a defiant effort in their second innings to reach 202 for 3 in 83 overs, still trailing England by 26 runs. With seven-second innings wickets in hand, New Zealand, who won the toss and elected to field, will be hoping to gain a substantial lead to force England on the back foot.
Starting their first innings at the overnight score of 138/7, the Black Caps’ effort was boosted by skipper Tim Southee, who struck a barrage of sixes to help his team cross the 200-run mark.
Southee lit up a gloomy Basin Reserve, smashing six sixes in his knock of 73 off 49 balls. It was his second-highest Test score, within reach of his equally rapid 77 not out on his Test debut against England at Napier in 2008. The ‘six’ assault helped Southee join Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hayden on the world six-hitting list, but his remarkable batting assault wasn’t quite enough for his side on Sunday.
Just when it looked like Southee and Tom Blundell -- who put on 98 for the eighth wicket -- would guide the Black Caps past the follow-on mark of 236, the skipper was out, caught by Zak Crawley off Broad. He was dropped by Jack Leach at fine leg in the same over.
Southee, who blasted three sixes off one Leach over to reach 50 off just 39 balls, is now equal 10th in the list of sixes hit in Tests, joining England’s Flintoff and Hayden on 82 hits over the boundary.
New Zealand came up with a far better effort in their second innings, thanks mainly to Latham and Conway, who shared a defiant 149-run opening stand.
For the first time in this series in which they are trailing 0-1, New Zealand enjoyed their time in the middle as Latham and Conway defied England for 52.5 overs - three balls short of the length of New Zealand’s first innings.
After surviving testing 19 overs before lunch, Latham and Conway looked comfortable under the Wellington sun, both going past 50, batting through the entire second session mostly untroubled.
However, having put on their third 100-run opening stand for the Black Caps, Conway was the first Kiwi batter to get out, caught by Ollie Pope at short leg off left-arm spinner Jack Leach’s bowling.
His demise promptly led to Latham joining him in the pavilion, lbw to part-timer Joe Root shortly after he became the seventh New Zealand batter to notch 5000 Test runs (72 matches).
It will now be up to former captain Kane Williamson (batting on 25), who is three runs shy of Ross Taylor’s all-time Test runs (7683) record for New Zealand. Henry Nicholls (batting on 18), who is keeping Williamson company to continue what’s been a gutsy fight.
However, it’s still advantageous for England as the visitors are in a great position to push for victory in the second Test and a clean sweep of the series.
They would be hoping to get New Zealand out as early as possible and chase down the target in their second innings for a big win.
England 435/8d lead New Zealand 209 in 53.2 overs (Tim Southee 73, Tom Blundell 38; Stuart Broad 4-61, James Anderson 3-37, Jack Leach 3-80) & 202/3 in 83 overs (Tom Latham 83, Devon Conway 61; Leach 2-58) by 24 runs.