Jack Leach shines after dismissing New Zealand for 483 on day four in Wellington, England requires 210 runs to win the second Test.
Despite being asked to follow-on, the Black Caps made a strong comeback in the game, led by Kane Williamson’s flawless 132 and Tom Blundell’s 90.
This gave England the daunting task of achieving the highest run chase in a Test match after enforcing a follow-on, with only three teams having managed to score more than New Zealand did in the same scenario against England.
England’s bowlers’ toil on a docile surface was made more difficult by skipper Ben Stokes’ absence from the assault due to a problem with his left knee.
Even Harry Brook was asked to use his medium speed, which astonishingly resulted in the test debut of Williamson and led to a 5-28 collapse for New Zealand.
Jack Leach, a left-arm spinner, took the final three wickets to end with 5-157.
At the end of the day, England had 11 overs to bat, during which time Tim Southee bowled under-pressure Zak Crawley through the gate for a shaky 24.
Ben Duckett is still on with England down 48-1, and nightwatchman Ollie Robinson is on.
A bizarre day leads up a fantastic climax
This Test might have a fantastic conclusion on day five, despite seeming lopsided when England requested New Zealand to bat one more on Saturday.
Day four saw England’s target reduced from the spectacular (Williamson’s century) to the absurd (Brook bowling).
Even though the surface is still favourable for batting and England has a recent track record of successful chases, it would not have been in their plans to face such a huge chase.
Given England’s repeated pledge not to draw matches, the possibility of a historic final day remains. The tourists will either create a new record or become the first England team to lose a Test after imposing the follow-on.
England, which leads the series 1-0, will be slight favorites to win their sixth consecutive Test.
But New Zealand has given itself an opportunity to preserve a six-year streak of unblemished home series.
Wonderful Williamson back to his best
Williamson had scored just 10 runs in the series prior, but he went on to hit the most tranquil century after becoming New Zealand’s all-time leading run scorer during the first over of the day.
The former captain consistently struck off his back foot, clipped off his pads, and played with the smoothest of hands.
He put up a 158-run partnership with Blundell after scoring 75 runs for the fifth wicket alongside Daryl Mitchell, who scored at the rate of one run per delivery.
Williamson clipped Stuart Broad for four and went on to a chanceless century, his 26th in Test matches, while Blundell held off close calls with James Anderson at backward square leg on 30 and Andrew Leach on 70.
As a trickle down the leg side was found on review, Williamson was heartbroken to concede to Brook’s bowling.
The collapse of New Zealand left Blundell with just one man, Neil Wagner, for company.
He attempted to get his second series century, but fell 10 runs short thanks to a charge and swipe at Leach that went up in Joe Root’s clutches at slip.
England is kept going by Foakes and Jack Leach.
Once New Zealand began on 202-3, England’s tired bowlers cycled through a variety of techniques and plans for the third day in a row.
Their toil might have been prolonged if wicketkeeper Ben Foakes had not once again proven his value as one of the world’s best glovemen.
For the sake of Broad, he moved up to the stumps, which immediately caused Mitchell to misjudge the ball and fall into the hands of Root, who was coming back from the first slip.
After making a beautiful movement to catch Williamson, Foakes used clever reflexes to run for Michael Bracewell, who’d been rushing back to score a third run and had forgotten to put his bat down when Stokes threw the ball from the boundary.
Jack Leach was forced to bowl 61.3 overs, but he was rewarded with his sixth Test five-wicket haul.
Southee skied to point, Matt Henry edged to slip, and Blundell’s heave signaled the beginning of England’s pursuit.
‘We will join the pursuit and amuse.’
After the conclusion of the game, England’s Jack Leach told BT Sport: “Tomorrow is shaping up to be an exciting day.” “It is taking a while to get to this stage.” I found it difficult at times to bowl extended stints on these pitches. I just kept going, hoping that something would happen. It was wonderful to get a couple wickets in the end.
“It was Ben Stokes who kept me going.” He is really encouraging, and all of the men helped me out.
“It was great to see Harry Brook collect his maiden Test wicket.” I believe we attempted to do something unexpected for them. We will do it if we can throw something different at them, and it worked.
“We know how we are going to go about winning.” We will endeavour to catch it. “We will be upbeat, play the game, and attempt to excite the spectators.” Read more cricket news here at Indibet VIP.