Blackcaps v England: Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell drags NZ back into contest with fourth test century

Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell has helped the Blackcaps rally from a seemingly impossible position to almost level pegging against England in their day/night first test at Mt Maunganui.

Precariously placed at 37/3 overnight, chasing the English first innings of 325/9 declared, New Zealand were reeling at 83/5 and seemed headed towards a large deficit, before Blundell came to the crease and marshalled the lower order to a competitive score. 

Initially playing in support of opener Devon Conway, as the pair compiled a 93-run stand for the sixth wicket, the keeper flourished once his senior partner departed, dragging his side within 19 runs, before he was the last to go.

Tom Blundell celebrates his century against England
Tom Blundell celebrates his century against England. Photo credit: Photosport

By stumps, the England top order had stretched that advantage back out to 98 runs, but lost both openers and almost their nightwatchman in the process, as they regained control of the contest.

After barely surviving the tricky night session on day one, Conway was a new batter in the light of day, reaching his half century off 98 balls and seemingly destined for a fifth test century, before he was caught by Ollie Pope off England captain Ben Stokes for 77.

The English had already chipped out nightwatchman Neil Wagner and Daryl Mitchell was quickly gone, not offering a shot to a ball from Ollie Robinson that swung back towards the stumps.

Conway and Blundell combined to right the innings, before the keeper found willing allies among the tailenders, particularly debutants Scott Kuggeleijn and Blair Tickner. 

Blundell put on 53 runs with Kuggeleijn for the eighth wicket and another 59 in a final stand with Tickner, who contributed just three, but defied the best efforts of the England bowlers to deprive Blundell his ton.

That milestone came off 143 balls, as he accelerated his scoring, putting on another 38 runs off as many balls, before skying a high return catch to Jimmy Anderson to end the innings.

Blundell's effort was his highest test score and the first time a wicketkeeper had scored a century in a day/night test.

Eager to have a crack at the England batters under lights, the NZ attack was plundered early, with openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett scoring at will, before falling in quick succession.

Duckett was first to go, edging Tickner into the slips, where the catch was gleefully accepted by Tom Latham. Then Crawley offered a bottom edge from a ball that barely rose from Kuggeleijn, snaffled by Blundell.

But New Zealand should also have had Stuart Broad before the end of play, after he top-edge high into the night sky, but neither Blundell (with the gloves) or Kuggeleijn (probably closest) committed to the catch.

England will have the heart of their batting order still intact when play resumes on Saturday afternoon and will hope to score quickly enough to put the Blackcaps under the screws again by evening on the third day.

England 325/9d & 79/2 (Crawley 28, Duckett 25) NZ 306 (Blundell 134, Conway 77; Robinson 4/54)

England lead by 98 runs

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