|Second Test, Christchurch (Hagley Oval), day one:|
|England 290-8: Bairstow 97 not out, Wood 52, Southee 5-60|
|New Zealand: Yet to bat|
Jonny Bairstow struck an unbeaten 97 as England’s batsmen struggled once again on the first day of the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.
England were 94-5 after losing three wickets in nine balls before Bairstow, aided by number nine batsman Mark Wood (52), steadied the innings.
Wood registered his maiden Test half-century before he was bowled by Tim Southee, who ended the day with 5-60.
However, Bairstow played well to ensure England ended the day on 290-8.
England opted to make three changes to the side that lost by an innings and 49 runs in Auckland, with Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Craig Overton the men to make way. That meant returns for pace bowler Wood and batsman James Vince and a debut for spinner Jack Leach.
The changes meant an already fragile batting order was weakened further, and the collapse felt almost inevitable.
However Bairstow, helped by Wood in his first Test appearance since July 2017, counter-attacked in entertaining fashion, with Bairstow poised to reach his fifth Test century.
Leach, batting at 10, acquitted himself well with the bat in the final overs to keep out the new ball and ensure he will be alongside Bairstow when England resume at 23:00 BST on Friday.
Bairstow & Wood spare England’s blushes
Changes seemed inevitable after England’s dreadful start to the first Test, where they were bowled out for just 58 on the opening day.
Bringing in Wood and Leach in place of Woakes and Moeen, along with dropping Overton to accommodate Vince, meant England’s tail would be exposed in the event of a collapse.
A collapse is what happened. In the space of nine balls, Joe Root was bowled by Southee for 37, Mark Stoneman worked a single, Dawid Malan was trapped lbw by Trent Boult for a first-ball duck and Stoneman then edged Southee to second slip.
It was down to Bairstow and Wood – whose previous Test best was an unbeaten 32 against Australia in 2015 – to rescue England.
Bairstow has shone for England this winter, making consecutive centuries in the recent one-day series, and he played a controlled innings here. His 57-run partnership with Ben Stokes ended six balls after tea, but Wood proved a more than capable partner.
Wood hit Neil Wagner for six and twice struck leg-spinner Ish Sodhi over mid-wicket while Bairstow drove and pulled to frustrate New Zealand as they approached the new ball.
Bairstow had his moments of good fortune. A top edge was spilled by wicketkeeper BJ Watling with Bairstow on 53, he was dropped again on 69 by Wagner and an awkward blow from a Colin de Grandhomme short ball knocked his helmet off.
Although Wood fell the over before the new ball was taken, bowled by the ever accurate Southee, Leach proved more than capable in defence.
Bairstow came close to reaching three figures before the close, but Wagner bowled a short, accurate final over to keep the wicketkeeper waiting.
England’s top order flounder again
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson may have surprised some when, on a clear day and with a good batting pitch, he opted to bowl first after winning the toss.
England’s woes in Auckland must have been fresh in Williamson’s mind, and his decision was rewarded in the third over when Alastair Cook missed a full ball and was bowled by Trent Boult for two.
It was only the second time Cook had been in dismissed in single figures three times in a row – the last time it occurred was in 2011, during the home series against India.
Stoneman and Vince worked hard, with Vince handed a reprieve on 10 when an lbw decision against him was overturned on review, but New Zealand’s bowlers found enough movement to trouble them.
Vince fell for 18 when he played around a straight ball from Southee and was trapped lbw, marking a disappointing return to the side.
The right-hander has often made starts but he has passed fifty just twice in 21 Test innings, leaving his average at 22.47. Similarly Cook has gone beyond fifty twice in 20 Test innings, but those two scores were converted into double hundreds against West Indies and Australia.
Cook’s fellow opener Stoneman has registered a half-century three times this winter but, despite overcoming an uncomfortable first 30 minutes, his dismissal was poor and he has yet to secure his place at the top of the order.
“New Zealand put England in today not because of the pitch or overhead conditions. They just really wanted to bowl at this batting line up again,” BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said.
‘It’s finely poised’ – what they said
Mark Wood, speaking to Test Match Special: “I think it’s one where we’ve got ourselves back into the game. When they won the toss and bowled, we expected it to be hard work up front.
“I’ve known Jonny since we were 11, 12-years-old so he knows I like to have a laugh and keep things fun out there. He kept things calm and we just enjoyed it together. We just kept it simple and tried to have fun.
“I didn’t know what to do when I got to 50. I couldn’t stop smiling. Jonny told me to stop grinning but I just couldn’t help it!”
Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann on TMS: “Jonny Bairstow has been such a good player for England over the last couple of years. There’s no need to think, with Jack Leach around, that he couldn’t press on tomorrow and take the score to 350.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “I’ve enjoyed the day. The conditions were set up for batting but we know what England’s confidence is like at the moment and New Zealand decided to prey on that.
“Mark Wood really made the New Zealanders chase his wicket, got to 30 and then cut loose. A lot of batsmen could look at him and see how he played the spinner. Jack Leach played really well, and Bairstow’s still there – so the game’s finely poised.”