Onus on Mitchell-Blundell again as New Zealand stutter

LEEDS    -   New Zealand squandered a great chance to stay on top in the Headingley Test as England staged an excellent fightback in the final session for the second successive day.  By Tea on Day 3, New Zealand were leading by 94 runs with nine wickets still remaining. However, the hosts stormed back in great fashion in the rain-hit final session as the visitors managed to add only 43 more runs for the loss of four key wickets.

Tom Latham had batted in beautiful fashion in the post lunch session, adopting a positive approach to score a boundary-laden 76. But the first ball after the Tea break saw Latham poke one behind to the wicketkeeper. Devon Conway was then rattled first ball as a result of a bouncer as England upper their intensity. Kane Williamson, who got himself another start in this Test match, looked fluent though as he added to his boundary tally before the conditions forced England to use only spin.

That proved to be a blessing in disguise as Joe Root struck immediately after the mini rain break. Root found some extra bounce and Conway only managed to inside-edge it to forward short leg. Matty Potts then returned to land the fatal blow as he bowled one wide that was chased and edged behind by the skipper as New Zealand started to lose the grip on the game.

Henry Nicholls became the next victim as he chipped one back to Jack Leach in his attempt to smash one over the bowler. That brought together Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell to the crease again as they batted out three nervy overs before the rain arrived and brought an early end to the proceedings.

Earlier in the day it was Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad who added to New Zealand’s frustration in the morning session. Jamie Overton missed out on a ton on debut but Bairstow continued to keep the visitors at bay, getting to his 150 off just 144 balls. However, it was the cameo from Broad that really hurt the New Zealand camp as the veteran took on the seam attack to smash them around and race to 42. That enabled England to take a 31-run lead.

When Will Young edged Potts behind early in his innings, it looked like a long day was in store for the visitors before Latham hit back in stunning fashion. He flicked the very next delivery after Young’s wicket for a boundary to help his side erase the deficit and go into the lead. An overpitched delivery in the next over was put away for a boundary as he reached 30 off just 40 balls. It was indeed quite an uncharacteristic innings from Latham as he looked to be in a positive frame of mind to catch England off guard.

With Williamson also getting into his groove, the runs were flowing pretty quick for New Zealand that saw them nudge ahead. But the see-saw contest had a twist in the tale again in the final session as a result of England’s fightback. And that puts the onus on Mitchell and Blundell to come up with a familiar rescue act again. They have already done this thrice in the series, so a fourth century stand can never be ruled out. But if England do manage to get a shot at the lower order early on the fourth day, they will emerge as firm favourites to complete a 3-0 whitewash.

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