|First Test, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, day four of five:|
|England 353 & 55-3: Santner 3-6|
|New Zealand 615-9dec: Watling 205, Santner 126, De Grandhomme 65|
|England trail by 207 runs|
England face a tough battle to save the first Test against New Zealand after BJ Watling scored a superb double century on day four in Mount Maunganui.
Watling made 205 and Mitchell Santner hit 123 for his maiden Test century in a stand of 261 for the seventh wicket.
A dominant New Zealand declared on 615-9 just after tea, leading by 262.
England slipped to 55-3 at the close, trailing by 207, meaning they will have to bat out an entire day with just seven wickets in hand to force a draw.
Santner took all three wickets for just six runs, removing both England openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns before dismissing nightwatchman Jack Leach with the last ball of the day.
Replays suggested Leach had not nicked the ball to short leg, but he and Joe Denly opted against a review, summing up a chastening day for the tourists.
With Santner extracting turn on an otherwise docile pitch and England jaded after being kept in the field for 201 overs, New Zealand will be confident of securing a 1-0 lead in the two-match series on day five.
Tired England falter late on
Facing 28 tricky overs until the close, Burns and Sibley negotiated the first hour with relative ease, seeing off opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee and not falling for Neil Wagner’s short-ball trap.
But just as England seemed on course to get through unscathed, Santner produced a canny spell that could prove decisive in securing a New Zealand win.
Testing the batsmen with drift and bounce, he saw Sibley dropped via an inside edge by Watling and a diving Southee put down Burns but neither England opener could add to their total before they were dismissed.
Sibley pushed at a wide one to be caught behind for 12 before a bogged down Burns miscued a sweep shot trying to rotate the strike and was caught by Colin de Grandhomme for 31.
Tom Latham then took a one-handed diving catch as Leach prodded uncertainly and was given out despite the ball appearing to only deflect off the pad, leaving England to rue not using a review.
That England’s concentration faltered late on was perhaps not surprising given they had been worn down in the field.
Despite an improved bowling performance, the damage had been done on day three as a tired attack could only muster one wicket in the first two sessions, with this now the sixth time in England’s last 24 overseas Tests that they have conceded 600 or more.
Watling and Santner give England masterclass
England have struggled to make imposing totals on overseas tours in recent years and here Watling and Santner showed them exactly how to, with an immaculate approach to batting on a flat, slow pitch.
Both continued to eschew flamboyant shots in the morning session as they ground out singles to establish a healthy lead of 99 at lunch and only then did they start to attack.
Where England thought they had earned the right to play more expansively at 277-4 and slipped to a disappointing 353 all out, Watling and Santner showed the virtue of doing so when the bowlers have been totally ground down as they added another 138 runs by tea.
Watling tapped his way to 150 before ramping a Jofra Archer short ball over third man for six, while Santner targeted fellow slow left-armer Jack Leach, using his feet superbly to loft several sixes down the ground
Santner scampered two to fine leg to bring up a fine century off 252 balls – his retrained celebration reflecting his admirable discipline after struggling early in his innings.
He finally miscued a lofted drive to long-on but Watling carried on, reaching his double century off 460 balls before nicking Archer behind shortly after the tea break, ending a masterful knock that took New Zealand from a tricky position to one of complete control.
Kane Williamson allowed his tailenders to tee off and punish England a while longer before calling them in on 615-9 – New Zealand’s highest score against England in Tests, surpassing the 551-9 at Lord’s in 1973.
‘We need to show a lot of character’ – reaction
Ex-England batsman Mark Ramprakash on Test Match Special: “It was always going to be a tough ask for England, given the fatigue factor. The two openers seemed to negotiate the opening burst pretty well, they looked very calm.
“But it was the introduction of Mitchell Santner that made the difference. He’s not a big spinner of the ball but he’s tall and gets extra bounce. I think that bounce troubled Rory Burns and led to his dismissal.
“England have to be able to rotate the strike but also back their defence for long periods of time. Burns was trying to rotate the strike but he got a top edge.”
Former England bowler Steven Finn: “This is an opportunity for England’s batsmen to keep their side in the series tomorrow.”
England batsman Jos Buttler: “The pitch is starting to create rough. There’s a few cracks but I still think it’s a pretty good wicket. If you can get through the odd ball that does something, it’s still a decent wicket.
“I’m sure the Kiwi seamers will try to get extra bounce out of the wicket. We need high skill levels and a lot of character and this side has got that in abundance.”