|Second Test, Christchurch (Hagley Oval), day three:|
|England 307 & 202-3 Vince 76, Stoneman 60, Boult 2-38|
|New Zealand 278: Watling 85, Broad 6-54, Anderson 4-76|
|England lead by 231 runs|
James Vince and Mark Stoneman’s 123-run partnership helped England take control on the third day of the second Test against New Zealand.
The hosts were bowled out for 278 in the morning session to give England a slim first-innings lead of 29.
Alastair Cook fell cheaply for 14 but Stoneman (60) and Vince (76) kept the New Zealand bowling attack at bay.
Both players fell in the evening session before bad light ended play with England on 202-3, a lead of 231.
England have had a long and tough winter schedule but they enjoyed a good day in Christchurch with both bat and ball.
Stuart Broad produced his best Test bowling performance for some time as he finished with 6-54, while James Anderson continued his strong winter with 4-76.
Stoneman and Vince performed well but both players will be frustrated to not make three figures and secure their places at the top of the order.
Joe Root (30 not out) and Dawid Malan (19 not out) will look to build on England’s lead when play resumes at 23:30 BST on Sunday.
Near and yet far for Vince & Stoneman
This was an important innings for England’s top order, who have been criticised over the winter for their inconsistency and inability to get England off to strong starts.
Opener Cook made a double century in Melbourne during the Ashes but has not passed 50 in any other innings, while neither Stoneman or Vince have made a big score that could secure their place.
Cook started positively here, pulling Tim Southee for four, but a loose shot and a lack of foot movement cost him as Trent Boult found the edge of his bat shortly after lunch.
He finishes the tour with a total of 23 runs in four innings – the leanest series of his career.
Vince has been criticised for innings that are more style than substance, while before Sunday, Stoneman had reached fifty four times but failed to push on.
The two offered up chances. Stoneman was dropped twice on 48 and 57 and reprieved on review after being given out caught behind, while Vince was lucky to not be caught twice off leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.
Vince’s cover drives proved as aesthetically pleasing as ever, while Stoneman was strong square of the wicket as he registered his Test best score.
However, they fell in similar – and frustrating – fashion.
Stoneman got a thick edge on a wide Southee delivery that wicketkeeper BJ Watling, leaping high to his left, held on to, before Vince flashed hard and nicked Boult to first slip.
Vince ends the winter with 336 runs and an average of 30.54 from 11 innings, while Stoneman has scored 393 runs in 13 innings at 30.23.
‘The stumps were an ornament, not a target’
Despite bowling New Zealand out for under 300 – the first time England have done so in the first innings of an away Test match since October 2016 – the visitors were a touch wasteful at times.
Southee took advantage of the old ball by pulling the fourth delivery of the morning to the boundary, before thrashing Mark Wood for consecutive fours.
The new ball paid dividends for England as Anderson bowled Watling with an outswinger for 85, before Ish Sodhi (one) edged Broad through to Jonny Bairstow to hand Broad his first Test five-wicket haul in 45 innings.
Broad has been working on his bowling action since a disappointing Ashes series, and his wickets in Christchurch came from a fuller length that forced the batsmen to play.
With Southee dismissed three balls after reaching his fourth Test half-century, England were looking at a 68-run lead, but the three pace bowlers dropped too short too quickly and allowed the tail to settle in.
Neil Wagner took 13 runs off Anderson, including a hooked six over fine leg, while number 11 batsman Boult provided an entertaining cameo of 16 from 22 deliveries.
It was ironic, then, that Boult was eventually dismissed by a short ball as he top-edged a pull shot off Broad down to fine leg for 16.
“At times, it felt as though the stumps were more of an ornament, rather than a target for the England bowlers,” ex-New Zealand batsman Jeremy Coney said on Test Match Special.
‘Hair-pullingly frustrating’ – what they said
New Zealand pace bowler Trent Boult, speaking to TMS: “Lower-order runs were vital out there – but England came out and played very nicely to get a 200-run lead.
“It’s turned into a very nice batting track, there’s a lot of wickets for us still to take. Definitely a big morning tomorrow. We can’t look too far ahead, but we’re still well and truly in this game.”
Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann: “Cook’s early dismissal allowed us to have a trial match with Stoneman and Vince – had either got a low score today, I don’t think we’d have seen them again.
“But Stoneman hasn’t answered any questions, though I still think he could open for England. And Vince is the most hair-pullingly, frustrating batsman to watch – he could easily average 50 in Test cricket, but he just has a blip of concentration and gets out exactly the same way nearly every time he bats. I think they’re vulnerable.”
Ex-England spinner Vic Marks: “Mark Stoneman looked less secure than James Vince, but he looked more fluent here than he’s done at any other time in the series.
“Stoneman scored a patchy 50 in Auckland, but his stock is rising. He looked good in the first two or three Tests of the Ashes without scoring many runs.”
England batting coach Graham Thorpe, speaking to Sky Sports: “We’ve had a good day. To get a lead – we’d like it to have been more but I thought we bowled really well throughout. Stuart and Jimmy were fantastic.
“You can tell when they were both walking off that Stoneman and Vince were disappointed. They’ll want to get that Test century.”