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England encountered some stubborn New Zealand resistance after enforcing the follow-on on day three of the decisive second Test in Wellington.
Ben Stokes sent the Black Caps back in to bat after three wickets from Stuart Broad saw them dismissed for 209 in the morning session, 226 behind.
But the trail went cold as Kiwi openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway shared an unbroken stand of 128 in 49 overs at Basin Reserve.
It was the home side’s best stand of the series and the lack of any concrete chances suggested that England would need to work hard to turn their advantage into victory.
There were a handful of edges that died in front of the slip cordon and a couple of flicks that briefly threatened to bring the close catchers into play, but it was otherwise a serene existence for the top-order pair.
Stokes, who was never likely to turn down the chance to put the opposition straight back in given his preference for aggressive tactics, did not bowl at all before tea.
Broad had earlier banked figures of four for 61 after knocking over the last three New Zealand batters.
Home captain Tim Southee had started the day swinging hard and often at the England attack, blazing away his second best Test score of 73. Fifty of those runs came in the morning’s play, off just 31 balls as he hacked three sixes in an over off Jack Leach and another from an Ollie Robinson bumper.
The introduction of Broad ended his fun, a skier to midwicket making immediate amends for Leach’s drop at fine-leg a ball earlier.
With the door ajar Broad swooped on his chance to bank some tidy figures, with Tom Blundell nailing one straight to mid-on and Matt Henry flailing at a neck-high delivery. With the innings occupying a modest 53.2 overs Stokes was eager to activate the follow-on – England’s first since August 2020.
James Anderson had been held in reserve, leading the way with the new ball, but both Latham and Conway looked secure as they reached 40 without loss at lunch. There was nothing more troubling than a couple of nudges by Conway, one that briefly interested Ollie Pope at leg gully and another off Leach that flew a yard wide of Stokes at leg slip.
The afternoon’s play was even harder work, with 88 added in 30 chanceless overs. Anderson produced the best spell, working hard at the defences but only managing to take a couple of nicks that hit the turf frustratingly close to the waiting catchers.
Root’s occasional off-spin was called upon to supplement the attack, with Stokes notable by his absence, and the team hundred ticked by before both batters brought up their half-centuries, Latham in 124 balls and Conway three quicker.
Robinson looked weary when he stood a short ball up at Latham, who had earlier become the seventh Kiwi to 5,000 Test runs, and saw it thrashed to the ropes.
Despite holding a lead of 98 at the break, England had questions to answer as they walked off.
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