Matt Henry took three top-order wickets to leave New Zealand on the brink of a series-clinching win as England’s batsmen failed miserably in the second and final Test at Edgbaston on Saturday.
England, on a good batting pitch, were 122-9 in their second innings at stumps on the third day – just 37 runs ahead of New Zealand with one wicket standing and two days left to play.
Even so, that still represented a recovery from an even more embarrassing 76-7.
Henry, one of an exceptional six changes to the New Zealand side that drew the series opener at Lord’s, took the first three wickets to fall in a fine return of 3-36 in 12 overs.
New Zealand are eyeing only a third series win in England after their 1986 and 1999 triumphs – an ideal way to prepare for their appearance in next week’s inaugural World Test Championship final against India at Southampton.
England, by contrast, are facing a first series loss on home soil in seven years since a 2014 reverse against Sri Lanka.
Their slim hopes of setting a challenging target now rest with tailenders Olly Stone (15 not out) and James Anderson (nought not out), whose England-record 162nd Test is unlikely to be one the pace great remembers fondly.
England were without injured all-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer.
But, in England coach Chris Silverwood’s first match in charge of selection, they also decided to rest Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes against the second-ranked Test side in the world, behind India.
Henry struck with just the second ball of England’s innings when opener Rory Burns, who made 81 the first time around, was well caught in the slips for a duck by stand-in skipper Tom Latham.
New Zealand’s close-catching, far superior to England’s this series, also accounted for Dom Sibley (10), well taken in the cordon by Daryl Mitchell off Henry.
Specialist batsmen Zak Crawley (10) and Ollie Pope (23) then saw their run of low scores continue.
Dan Lawrence, who top-scored with 81 not out in England’s first innings, went for a duck, caught off left-arm quick Neil Wagner (3-18) by diving wicketkeeper Tom Blundell.
New batsman James Bracey avoided a third successive nought in Test cricket but could only manage eight before he played on trying to sweep Ajaz Patel.
Left-arm spinner Patel then captured the prize wicket of England captain Joe Root for 11 when the star batsman was caught behind off an edged cut.
England were now 76-7, still nine runs behind.
The slump was all the more humiliating as New Zealand had rested key seamer Tim Southee, with Patel and Blundell only playing after Mitchell Santner (cut finger) and BJ Watling (sore back) were injured.
Fast bowler Wood followed his first-innings 41 with a game 29 as he shared a stand of 44 with fellow quick Stone.
But a knock featuring five fours and a six ended when he skyed a pull off Wagner to Blundell.
England’s 120-8 promptly became 121-9 when Trent Boult had Stuart Broad lbw.
Earlier, Broad took an impressive 4-48 in 23.1 overs, but New Zealand still made 388 to lead by 85 runs on first innings.
Ross Taylor hit 80, the third score in the 80s in the innings, after New Zealand resumed on 229-3, a deficit of 74.
© Agence France-Presse