New Zealand’s openers provided an ideal response to England’s first-innings 389 as Martin Guptill, on his return to Test cricket, and Tom Latham added 148 for the first wicket before the home side struck back by removing the pair within three deliveries to leave New Zealand 173 for 2 at tea.
This was just New Zealand’s fifth century opening stand on English soil and fifth against any team since 2004 – highlighting the challenge they have had in finding a productive combination. Both took advantage of being reprieved: Guptill, on 25, was caught at first slip off debutant Mark Wood who was denied the wicket by overstepping and Latham, on 21, was dropped at second slip by Ian Bell off Ben Stokes.
Guptill, showing the form of the last four months which has included double hundreds at the World Cup and for Derbyshire then 150 in the recent warm-up match against Worcestershire, went to his fifty from 87 balls and Latham, with a sweet cover drive, from 95 deliveries. The off-side play of both batsmen was a stand-out feature, Guptill opening his innings with a lovely cover drive, while Latham regularly picked off boundaries through the covers.
New Zealand’s scoring rate was over four runs an over throughout the afternoon session as England struggled to regain control but Moeen Ali, who did not bowl until the 33rd over, provided the breakthrough when Latham was trapped on the back foot by one which skidded on. Two balls later and Guptill’s innings was also over when the desire to drive brought his downfall as he played on the up against Stuart Broad and was superbly caught, down to his left, by Gary Ballance at cover.
Two batsmen had not faced a ball and there could have been another wicket in the same over when Kane Williamson dropped his first delivery into the off side, set off for the run and sold his partner, Ross Taylor, down the river only for Broad to miss an under-arm flick as he sprinted from his follow through. But by the interval both were beginning to settle.
England resumed on 354 for 7 following the final-ball dismissal of Jos Buttler on the first evening and the lower order could not push them beyond 400. Moeen made 58 – overall England’s Nos 5 for 8 added 315 runs for the innings – but Trent Boult twice found outside edges during an impressive spell.
There was swing on offer for Boult and Tim Southee, which would have interested James Anderson who needs three wickets to reach 400. It is 12 years to the day since he made his Test debut on this ground against Zimbabwe but he had not closed in on his latest milestone by tea.
Wood nudged 92mph in his first over and got the ball to carry through at chest height to Buttler. In his third over he produced an excellent delivery which climbed outside off, took Guptill’s edge and was well held by Alastair Cook at first slip. The celebrations began, but then agony took over as replays showed he was on, not behind, the popping crease.
Wood’s Durham team-mate Stokes was also eye-catching, finding help off the surface and troubling Latham in particular who he should have removed when the left hander pushed at one going across him but Bell, moving to his left at second slip, could not hold on.
Earlier, Moeen had moved to his half-century in the first over of the day when he pulled Southee for his ninth boundary but he only added a further five runs before sparring outside off and edging through to Latham, who continued to deputise for the injured BJ Watling behind the stumps.
Latham had his third catch in Boult’s next over when Broad’s awful batting form continued with a thin nick – although it was a good delivery which nipped down the slope. Anderson indicated he was keen for a good time not a long time at the crease as he twice charged at Boult in his first five deliveries, but also produced a handsome square drive off Southee which was followed by a hack over the slips.
A change of bowling worked straight away to end the innings when Anderson bunted Matt Henry’s fifth ball of the day back to the bowler who showed superb reflexes in his follow through. It denied Boult the chance of a fifth wicket and a place on the honours board alongside Southee.