England battle after early Bell loss

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Lord’s, London: New Zealand were well placed to push for only their second victory at Lord’s after they built a lead of 134 before nipping out two early England wickets. The home side, in the shape of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, gritted their teeth through to the close on 74 for 2, still 60 behind, although will cling to the fact that should they be able to post a competitive target they will be bowling last.

Kane Williamson’s 132 – his 10th Test hundred – was the main pillar the New Zealand innings, compiled at a healthy four runs an over, in which the top four all passed fifty and they were followed to that mark by BJ Watling, who was left unbeaten 61 despite battling a knee injury that continued to prevent him from keeping in England’s second innings.

England actually did a decent job at clawing back New Zealand’s innings from 403 for 3, taking the last seven wickets for 120, as Mark Wood opened his Test tally after being denied by a no-ball on Friday while Moeen Ali claimed two wickets in three balls – Williamson caught at leg slip for 132 and Mark Craig lbw – following another lengthy absence from the attack as Cook, somewhat understandably given the overhead conditions, persisted with his quicks.

On an overcast day – rain forced a slightly early lunch and caused an hour delay to the resumption – there was considerable assistance for the pacemen; Trent Boult and Tim Southee made excellent use of it when their chance came again in the final session.

Adam Lyth began confidently with three boundaries but Boult responded with an outswinger which was edged to his new-ball partner at third slip. Lyth will hope for a more profitable outing next week at his home ground. Gary Ballance then completed a lean Test when he had his off stump trimmed by a superb delivery from Southee, which nipped away late off the seam, zipping past the edge as Ballance hung back in his crease.

At 25 for 2 all sorts was possible in a lengthy final session, but Cook and Bell – England’s senior pair of batsmen – stayed together for 18 overs. It was rarely pretty, save for the occasional drive by Bell, but hugely important for the hosts. The ball continued to beat the bat and a couple of edges fell short of slip and gully from Bell though in the evening murk it was a commendable effort.

Landmarks were on the horizon when the third day began with New Zealand handsomely placed on 303 for 2. Williamson, who resumed on 92, did not have to wait long for his hundred, which came, fittingly, with a dab towards third man. He became just the third New Zealand No. 3 to score a hundred at Lord’s and, as is tradition, his name was quickly taped up on the honours board pending the official inscribing. Much in keeping with his innings, there were no histrionics on reaching three figures, just a calm salute to all parts of an appreciative ground.

The ball after Williamson’s milestone, Ross Taylor brought one up for himself with a fifty from 111 balls. That made it just the second time New Zealand’s top four had all scored 50-plus in a Test innings; Brendon McCullum’s dismissal for 42 – made from 38 balls – meant they just failed to match the previous occasion, in Lahore in 1965, when the top five all managed at least a half-century. New Zealand’s total was boosted as extras also clocked up a half-century.

On a cloudy morning when the floodlights were needed the new ball was vital if England were to get themselves back into the match. James Anderson was a little short but Stuart Broad, from the Nursery End, produced a very impressive spell and it was he who broke through when Taylor gloved a short ball down the leg side which was brilliantly held, full length to his left, by Jos Buttler, ending a stand of 189.

McCullum entered with a dominant position to build on and drove his first ball through the covers. He is currently a remarkable batsman to watch and was soon using his feet to advance at the new-ball bowlers. On one of those occasions, against Broad, he got himself into a tangle and almost fended a catch into the cordon but in Broad’s next over produced a thunderous back-foot drive.

He brought the scores level with back-to-back boundaries off Wood – including an edge through the vacant third slip – and also deposited Ben Stokes into the Grand Stand. He could have quickly accelerated the lead away but, showing no inclination to reign himself in, scythed a cross-batted hoick to third man where Joe Root judged the catch well. Wood’s foot was behind the line this time. He was off the mark.

Williamson added just 20 to his score in the morning session while New Zealand flayed 104 in 23 overs. It was much more of a battle for him compared to the previous day. Overnight he was 92 off 141 balls but by the time he bat-padded to leg slip he had added 40 off 121 on the third day, which included a life on 120 when Bell spilled his second catch of the innings off the luckless Stokes, whose figures of none for 105 did not reflect his efforts. There was also a tight lbw review against Wood the ball after McCullum’s dismissal and two edges which landed short of Cook at first slip.

Corey Anderson fell to another superb leg-side catch by Buttler, this time diving to his right, to give Wood a second wicket as the Durham quick produced an impressive spell of 12-2-22-2 from the Pavilion End either side of the extended lunch break. He almost claimed Williamson with one of the edges short of slip and thought he had Watling caught behind for a duck only for the DRS to show it had clipped the back arm.

Watling, batting with the knee injury which he suffered on the opening morning, took 13 balls to get off the mark but then collected a string of boundaries off Stokes – his first five – through a combination of outside edge, top edge and some more authentic strokes.

Anderson, who needed three wickets at the start of the innings to reach 400, picked up his first in his 28th over when Southee pulled to mid-on. He thought he had No. 399 when Watling fended a sharp short delivery to gully, where Root dived forward to claim the catch, but it was overturned on TV evidence even though the on-field umpires thought it was out.

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