Tom Blundell century for New Zealand leaves Test against England finely poised

A career-best 138 steered his side to 306 and just 19 runs short of England's 325-9 declared

Tom Blundell raises his bat after reaching his century on day two of the Test match between New Zealand and England at the Bay Oval. Getty
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A Tom Blundell century for New Zealand and two late England batting stumbles left the first Test tantalisingly poised at Mount Maunganui on Friday.

The tourists held a 98-run lead with eight second-innings wickets in hand and still three days to play in a fast-moving day-night Test at the Bay Oval.

Blundell's career-best 138 steered his side to 306 and just 19 runs short of England's 325-9 declared.

The delicate nature of the contest didn't prevent the tourists playing their shots, although they lost openers Ben Duckett, for 25, and Zak Crawley, for 28, in reaching 79-2 off 16 overs.

England's best bowler, Ollie Robinson (4-54), said the honours were "pretty even in the end" after his side dominated day one with their aggressive batting before reducing the Black Caps to 37-3.

At stumps, Ollie Pope was unbeaten on 14 and nightwatchman Stuart Broad was six not out and lucky to still be there after his top edge flew directly upwards but landed between Blundell and bowler Scott Kuggeleijn, who were watching each other.

It didn't detract from Blundell's whirlwind fourth Test ton -- a mix of improvisation and power off 181 balls, featuring 19 fours and one six.

The 32-year-old said he was determined not to let England's domination continue when he arrived at the crease at 83-5.

"I love getting in the fight, getting in tough situations and doing what's needed for the team," Blundell said.

"I feel like I've been in a lot of these situations and I can get a lot of confidence from that.

"It got us back in the game, where it didn't look likely we'd come close to that.

"And getting those two valuable wickets -- it probably should have been three - puts us in really good stead for tomorrow."

- Milestone -

Blundell shared a 75-run partnership with opener Devon Conway (77) but just as valuable were late stands with tailenders Kuggeleijn and Blair Tickner -- both on Test debut -- of 53 and 59 respectively.

Number 11 Tickner contributed three runs as Blundell advanced from 80 to well past three figures, accompanied by roars from the home crowd under a setting sun.

He was the last home wicket to fall, caught and bowled by James Anderson (3-36).

The wicket was historically significant for Anderson, who is on the verge of setting a world record alongside long-time new ball partner Broad.

The pair have taken 1,001 wickets between them in the 133 Tests they have played together, dating back 16 years.

They sit level with Australian greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who achieved 1,001 wickets in 104 Tests played together.

The 1,000 mark was reached early on Friday when nightwatchman Neil Wagner was fooled by a slower ball by Broad (1-72), having heaved him for successive sixes off the two previous deliveries.

Conway started New Zealand's fightback but lost concentration against a relentless barrage of short bowling from England captain Ben Stokes (1-38) and stabbed a pullshot straight to square leg.

Despite his four wickets Robinson maintained his pre-Test stance that the pink ball isn't suitable for Test cricket.

"Not particularly. As soon as it gets 30-40 overs old, you can't shine them, you can't keep them moving," he said.

"You feel it's very much in the batter's favour, so still not a fan.

"You've just got to be adaptable. You can try and be really aggressive, and sometimes leak runs, or you can try and go dry and pick up one or two here or there.

"We did a bit of both today."


Updated: February 17, 2023, 12:00 PM