An unbeaten stand of 180 between Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell put New Zealand in control against England after two days of the first test at Lord’s on Friday.
Coming together with their side at 56-4 — just 47 runs ahead — Mitchell and Blundell moved the Black Caps 227 runs ahead by stumps. Mitchell ended the day on 97 not out, three short of a well-deserved century at the home of cricket, with Blundell 90 not out in an imposing total of 236-4.
Their partnership was an exemplary display of calm accumulation, with the pitch flattening out and the home attack unable to whip itself into action.
A day after 17 wickets fell, seven were added to the tally, and New Zealand looked like repeating its horrible start on Thursday. Will Young, captain Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Devon Conway all went out to nicks to leave their side 56-4 inside 23 overs.
Mitchell and Blundell then settled in for what could go down as a match-winning stay.
They shut down England’s vastly experienced James Anderson and Stuart Broad and showed impressive debutant Matthew Potts that test cricket was not quite as simple as he might have thought.
Potts removed Williamson for the second time in two days and took his match tally to six but was ineffective after lunch.
New captain Ben Stokes was expensive at more than five an over and there was an inconclusive first look at the team’s first ever concussion substitute Matt Parkinson.
Having raced down the motorway from Manchester to replace Jack Leach on Thursday afternoon, the legspinner finally got his long-awaited chance and got a little bite from the pitch, but the batters’ initial struggles to find their timing against him soon disappeared. Potts sent down 14 wicketless overs for 43.
England earlier climbed from 116-7 overnight to 141 all out, Tim Southee finishing with four wickets, and fast-bowling partner Trent Boult three.
The slender nine-run lead left England little margin for error, but Anderson, Potts and Broad once again set a superb tone by sharing the first four wickets.
The afternoon session finally saw the game revert to something approaching a regular test match rhythm, as New Zealand dug in to add 90 for the loss of just one wicket, Conway’s.
Mitchell cut and pulled well, showing enough intent to allow Blundell to find his feet at a quieter pace. Stokes’ introduction raised the run rate, despite some prodigious reverse swing, and when Parkinson finally got his hands on the ball, New Zealand was 90-4.
England’s hunt for a breakthrough began to labour.
Blundell successfully played catch-up and beat his partner to the first half-century of the match, getting there in 101 balls with a compact square drive off Potts.
Mitchell did not have to wait long to follow, getting there with a nudged single off Broad, and it was increasingly apparent the game was being shaped by two cool-headed knocks.
There were pockets of activity, with five boundaries in the space of three overs as Mitchell took on Anderson and Blundell did the same to Broad, but it was the methodical manner and chanceless application that impressed most.