MOUNT MAUNGANUI, New Zealand (AP)New Zealand had closed to within two wickets of victory over England by tea on Monday on the final day of the first cricket test.
Trailing by 262 on the first innings, England was 161-8 at tea, still 101 runs behind, with Sam Curran 13 not out and Jofra Archer 10.
Neil Wagner claimed three wickets between lunch and tea to further New Zealand’s push for victory and a 1-0 lead in the two-test series.
After England captain Joe Root (11) was dismissed in the morning session, Joe Denly (35), Ollie Pope (6) and Jos Buttler (0) fell to Wagner between lunch and tea while Tim Southee dismissed dangerman Ben Stokes for 28.
New Zealand was a bowler short in the afternoon after paceman Trent Boult suffered a rib injury which kept him off the field, leaving him in doubt for the second test at Hamilton starting on Friday.
Wagner made up for Boult’s absence with an extended spell before and after the second new ball and had 3-40 from 18 overs at the tea break.
Batting was exceptionally difficult on Monday as the ball often scuttled through low or spat fiercely out of footmarks or crevices in the pitch at the Bay Oval.
Denly was a victim of the latter when, after he had batted more more than 3-1/2 hours, he received a ball from Wagner that spat off a length and grazed his glove as he tried to hold his bat above his head. Wicketkeeper B.J. Wagner completed a tricky catch.
Wagner was forced to bowl around the wicket as he was unhappy with the landing area on the other side of the crease and the change paid off.
He removed Pope with a slow full toss which the batsman tried to force through a tightly packed close field on the off side. Mitchell Santner dived headlong at short cover to pull in a magnficent catch.
Wagner then dismissed Jos Buttler with the first delivery with the second new ball, when the batsman was bowled after not offering a shot.
New Zealand was most relieved to see the back of Stokes, who has been a match-winner for England in improbable situations in the recent past. He lifted England to a win over New Zealand in the final of the World Cup at Lord’s in July and to a one-wicket win over Australia at Headingly during this summer’s Ashes.
This time Stokes, having looked settled, dragged a wide delivery from Southee back onto his stumps.
Curran was out for a first ball duck in the first innings and was batting with care and determination at tea. He survived two strong lbw appeals, overturning the first when television replays showed a big inside edge. The second was shown to be a no ball bowled by Mitchell Santner.
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