ENGLAND tightened their grip on the Second Test with more rapid runs and then a Jimmy Anderson-inspired glut of wickets.
It means Ben Stokes’ team are on course for another victory – their 11th in 12 Tests since he became permanent captain – despite plenty of rain interruptions.
By the close of day two at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, New Zealand were 138-7 in reply to England’s first innings total of 435-8 declared.
Only 128.1 overs – out of a possible 180 – have been possible in the match so far.
Although Harry Brook added just two runs to his overnight 184 not out before being caught and bowled by quick bowler Matt Henry, Joe Root extended his 29th Test century to 153 not out.
It showed a total return to form and confidence for the ex-skipper who before the match queried how he should be batting in the Bazball era.
England tossed away wickets on the second morning in the quest for quick runs with Stokes and Ollie Robinson caught from mis-timed shots, wicketkeeper Ben Foakes losing his footing and being stumped for a duck and Stuart Broad nailed plumb lbw after missing an attempted sweep shot.
But their attacking instincts continued to advance the game.
Root batted with ever-increasing aggression and again played a couple of his reverse scoop shots. The shot had caused his downfall in the First Test but here they were middled to the boundary.
Root added 52 runs from 42 balls – including three sixes – before Stokes again chose to declare with wickets intact.
England’s overall scoring rate was 4.99 runs-per-over – phenomenal at any stage in the history of Test cricket but now routine under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.
The pitch was offering help to the seam bowlers and it was no surprise that Anderson made early inroads.
He had two wickets before lunch and captured a third soon after the interval that left the Blackcaps 21-3 – exactly the same score as England were at one stage in their first innings.
Opener Devon Conway, top batter Kane Williamson and the recalled Will Young were all caught behind by Foakes.
Then spinner Jack Leach chimed in with three wickets.
Left-hander Tom Latham was eventually given out caught by Root at slip attempting a reverse sweep after a long look at TV replays by third umpire Aleem Dar, who decided the ball brushed the band of his glove as well as his armguard.
Henry Nicholls also fell to a reverse sweep, superbly caught one-handed by Ollie Pope at short leg. Then Pope held another stunner to send Daryl Mitchell on his way.
Broad gratefully received a return catch that was tamely popped back to him by Michael Bracewell. Tom Blundell and Kiwi captain Tim Southee prevented any further mishaps but England are once more in a powerful position.
Root said: “I think I found a way to manage the situation in the game after we lost three quick wickets at the start of our innings.
“And having Brooky at the other end certainly makes things easier.
“I felt like I had the bit between my teeth. Sometimes you have to be patient when you don’t feel like things are falling for you – and then you have to be ruthless.
“Brooky is putting the bowlers under so much pressure and the sky is the limit for him.
“The most impressive thing is his temperament, he is still very down to earth.”
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