Tea: England 58 and 217 for 6 (Stokes 26*) trail New Zealand 427 for 8 dec. by 152 runs
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Ben Stokes defied New Zealand with an atypical display of staunch defense on the final afternoon at Eden Park. However, such was New Zealand’s dominance over the Auckland Test that chipping away at the England middle order was sufficient to take them within four wickets of a series lead, with two sessions remaining.
After Tim Southee had Dawid Malan caught at second slip off a lazy waft in the fifth over of the afternoon, New Zealand seemed to have lost their penetration without lateral movement.
Fuller-length deliveries were easily negotiated with the old pink ball not swinging, but the shorter ones were more comfortable, a fifth-day slow pitch allowing batsmen the time to adjust.
While Stokes was largely untroubled, Jonny Bairstow was given two reprieves in his 26-ball 72. Like Alastair Cook, Bairstow was also strangled down the leg side, while on 0 off the bowling of Southee, a thick inside edge travelling quickly to BJ Watling’s right, but the ball burst out of his left glove.
On 21, Bairstow then pulled a long-hop from legspinner Todd Astle, in his first spell of the Test, to Trent Boult at mid-on. Again, the ball popped out. In a bizarre period of play, Bairstow pulled another long-hop, 11 balls later, to midwicket where Kane Williamson leapt to his right to take his second terrific catch of the match.
Moeen Ali was tested by Neil Wagner’s short-ball strategy. He passed, despite a blow to his chest attempting to sway out of a bouncer. But on the stroke of tea, against the new ball, Boult trapped Moeen in front. New Zealand successfully reviewed the on-field not-out decision, with replays indicating the ball had grazed the front pad before hitting the inside edge. Stokes was left fuming at the other end, having fought spiritedly with an unbeaten 26 off 86 balls.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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