England give themselves a chance of a famous win, as they close on 48-1 after a five-wicket blitz sparked by Harry Brook to dismiss New Zealand for 483 on the fourth day of the second Test in Wellington
- England ended the fourth day of the second Test against New Zealand on 48-1
- The Black Caps were in a promising position but the visitors were all out for 483
- England aiming to go 2-0 up in the two-match series after winning the first Test
Harry Brook already looks destined for a long and glittering career with the bat. What had not been expected was that he could become England’s saviour with the ball.
It was with something akin to desperation that Ben Stokes turned to Brook on the fourth day of this final Test after seeing England toil like rarely before during a year when almost everything has gone right for them.
Kane Williamson had made his 26th Test century and, in the process, become the leading run-scorer in New Zealand history. The Black Caps had cruised to 455 for five, Williamson adding 158 with Tom Blundell, to grind England into the dust and raise what appeared valid questions over Stokes’ decision to enforce the follow-on.
So, what happens? The England captain threw the ball to his new superstar, the proud purveyor of what Joe Root calls ‘filthy medium-pace off the wrong foot’, and Brook duly took the wicket of one of the best batsmen in the game to spark a New Zealand collapse.
Who writes Brook’s scripts? No matter. This was a crucial tale for an England side who had been suffering their worst day of the winter and had seen New Zealand give themselves the chance to become only the fourth side in Test history to win after following on.
Harry Brook took the key wicket of Kane Williamson to spark a New Zealand collapse as England ended the fourth day of the second Test on 48-1 after bowling out the hosts for 483
Brook only has eight first-class wickets but dismissed batter Williamson with his medium pace
The Yorkshire star was mobbed by team-mates after the feat, which led to a five-wicket blitz
Williamson had been class and calmness personified in making his way to 132 off 282 balls when Brook, with eight first-class wickets to his name, trundled in for his third over, bowling his dibbly-dobbers at little more than Monty Panesar pace.
Williamson flicked at a seemingly innocuous ball that went down the leg-side; Ben Foakes took the ball standing up with his customary ease; and Brook stifled a half appeal for caught behind.
The keeper was not convinced and, more importantly, nor was umpire Rod Tucker but Joe Root, running in from mid-wicket, was sure he heard a noise.
Almost at the last second Stokes called for a review and technology detected the faintest of touches. Cue joyous celebrations from a disbelieving England, Stokes shaking his head at the absurdity of it all, and Williamson trudging off.
With him appeared to go New Zealand’s hopes as their tail disappeared in a hurry, Michael Bracewell departing in the most unfortunate but also sloppy fashion when he was run out lifting his foot as he ran comfortably into his crease.
The last four wickets fell for five runs as New Zealand were bowled out for 483, Jack Leach ended up with a five-wicket haul to show for his 61.3 overs, and England were faced with a chase of 258 to win when barely an hour earlier it looked as if it would be many, many more.
They reduced that by 48 runs by the close of the fourth day but lost Zak Crawley for perhaps the last time in Test cricket. Crawley had lived more than dangerously during a frenetic stay at the crease but just when it seemed as if he might live to fight another day he was bowled through a rather large gate by Tim Southee.
England have always showed the most unstinting faith towards Crawley but now, after 33 matches and averaging just 27, his race, and it has always been a gallop, looks run. He is clearly the obvious man to go when Jonny Bairstow returns this summer.
Black Caps captain Williamson ended on 132 off 282 deliveries, with a masterful century
Kane Williamson had become New Zealand’s all-time leading Tests run scorer after passing 63
Spinner Jack Leach (right) then secured a five-wicket haul as he cleaned up the home side’s tail
No such worries for Brook, who was only bowling today because his captain could not. And the sight of Stokes earlier twice sprawled on the Basin Reserve outfield, firstly when he turned his ankle on the lush turf and then when he fell on the ball and winded himself, had been a sobering one for England.
Stokes recovered from both those problems but was not fit enough to bowl himself because of the far more worrying issue of his left knee and, whatever happens on the last day, this was something of a reality check for England.
Not so much because Stokes got it wrong in asking New Zealand to bat again after they conceded a first innings advantage of 226 runs to England – the follow-on was the attacking option and totally in keeping with the philosophy of Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
But more, with this summer and the big one against Australia in mind, the age-old problem on flat pitches of a one-paced seam attack and just an orthodox finger spinner, albeit one in Leach who continues to justify the faith Stokes has placed in him.
The lack of real pace and mystery spin here has made it even more important that Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are fit and firing for the Ashes and the visit to India early next year while England must hope Rehan Ahmed continues to deliver on his enormous leg-spinning potential.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have done all that could be realistically asked of them in this series, not least in playing huge roles in the victory in Mount Maunganui, but Stokes telling them and Ollie Robinson to go again here proved a little too much.
Wellington was where Broad and Anderson first came together 15 years ago and the Basin Reserve is, conceivably, where the most prolific partnership in history could be playing their last overseas Test together, with the next away one not coming until next January.
The sight of the pair bowling 51 overs here for just a solitary wicket – Broad had Daryl Mitchell miscuing to mid-off on 54 – was not exactly conducive to their continued longevity.
Nightwatchman OIlie Robinson (right) saw off late pressure as England ended on 48-1, with Ben Duckett (left) scoring 23 off 29 and his fellow opener Zak Crawley dismissed for 24 off 30
Ollie Robinson (second right) made a breakthrough with Henry Nicholls’ wicket in the morning
Stuart Broad then removed the dangerous Daryl Mitchell after he had tried to heave the bowler
It might have been different for a seam attack that, according to analysts CricViz, produced the third lowest average speed in the New Zealand second innings of any England line-up since ball-tracking began in 2005, had the captain been available to provide help.
Stokes had bowled just two erratic overs on the third evening and did not turn his arm over once throughout a fourth day when England were in desperate need of one of their captain’s game changing bursts of something, indeed anything, a bit different.
This is the biggest indication yet that, for all his public insistence that it is nothing to worry about, the situation with Stokes’ knee is reaching crisis point.
It is not clear whether an operation would solve the problem or indeed what the injury actually is.
It is said Stokes does not want to investigate it too deeply with scans in case it shows up more damage than he is prepared to accept – but he surely needs either surgery or rest before the series in which ‘Bazball’ will ultimately be judged – the Ashes.
But he is due to travel to India in March to fulfil a £1.6million deal with the Chennai Super Kings of the IPL and it would take a brave man to suggest he should forgo that. Over to you Rob Key?
After all, Stokes is centrally-contracted and undoubtedly has always put England first – but the landscape of world cricket is changing like never before and managing director Key has intimated he wants to work with England’s players on franchise opportunities rather than against them. It is the most delicate of situations.
For now, that can wait as England close in on their seventh successive victory and their 11th in 12 matches under their dynamic duo of Stokes and McCullum. Thanks to an unlikely intervention from the boy genius who can do no wrong.
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