Daryl Mitchell led the New Zealand charge as the tourists powered to 318-4 against England by close of play on the first day of the second Test on Friday. Mitchell’s aggressive 81 not out and an unbeaten 67 from Tom Blundell made England captain Ben Stokes pay for his decision to bowl first on a flat pitch at Trent Bridge.
England’s wounds were mostly self-inflicted, with three dropped catches as the bowling and fielding flaws that plagued them in recent months returned with a vengeance.
World Test champions New Zealand, who lost a gripping first Test at Lord’s, were without Covid-hit Kane Williamson after the skipper was ruled out on Thursday evening.
Despite Williamson’s absence, the Kiwis punished some wayward England bowling, with Mitchell and Blundell amassing an undefeated 149-run partnership after Tom Latham and Will Young put on 84 for the first wicket.
Stokes dismissed Young for 47 and, the very next ball, stand-in skipper Latham fell to James Anderson for 26.
But New Zealand stayed positive, continuing to find the boundaries regularly as Devon Conway (46) and Tom Nicholls (30) kept the visitors on top.
Nicholls eventually edged Stokes to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who also took the catch when Conway nicked one behind soon afterwards off Anderson.
Latham admitted he would also have bowled first given the chance, yet he might be reconsidering that verdict after his team seized control in emphatic fashion.
Mitchell hit nine fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 81.
He went on the attack against spinner Jack Leach after tea, reverse-sweeping a four, then launching a towering six that splash-landed in a fan’s pint of beer in the stands.
The soaked woman’s predicament drew a comical reaction from England’s Matthew Potts, who was seen trying to act out the incident for the benefit of his team-mates moments later.
Potts did not find it so funny when he was on the receiving end of some punishment from Mitchell and Blundell, who both hammered fours off the seamer in one over.
Mitchell had just three runs when he was dropped by Joe Root off Stokes and he took full advantage, following the century he bagged at Lord’s with another crucial innings.
Stuart Broad tried a barrage of short balls to Mitchell but the batsman fought fire with fire and hooked him for six to complete the hundred partnership.
Broad clattered Mitchell on the helmet soon afterwards but he was able to continue after being assessed by the physio.
Root’s brilliant century inspired England’s first Test win, but he was doing more damage to his own side’s cause this time and he dropped another catch, this one a tricky chance when Blundell edged Leach on 47.
A curious failed England appeal for lbw against Blundell when he clearly hit the ball summed up their growing desperation.
Stokes and new coach Brendon McCullum are looking to build on England’s thrilling five-wicket win against the Test world champions in the first game of the three-match series.
That was a much-needed morale boost after the gloomy end of Root’s spell as Test captain.
England are chasing a first series victory since January 2021, but they have an uphill climb after this sloppy effort.
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