Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell were both eyeing coveted hundreds at Lord’s after batting New Zealand into a commanding position on the second day of the first Test against England.
In a match where bowlers on both sides had previously been on top, the pair’s unbroken partnership of 180 took the Test world champions to 236-4 in their second innings at stumps, a lead of 227, after they had come together with New Zealand in trouble at 56-4.
Mitchell was 97* and Blundell 90* – the first two fifties of the match – with the duo now having equalled New Zealand’s record fifth-wicket stand against England, set by Martin Crowe and Shane Thomson at Lord’s in 1994.
They compiled the first century partnership of this match in classic Test style, displaying a sound defence while punishing anything loose or too full.
Mitchell finished Friday’s play in style, driving the last ball of the day, from England debutant Matthew Potts, for four to move to within three runs of a second hundred in 10 career Tests following his unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in Christchurch last year.
His alliance with wicketkeeper Blundell highlighted how a good pitch was blameless for the fact 17 wickets had fallen on Thursday.
Given England’s struggle to make 141 in reply to New Zealand’s first-innings 132, the visitors may already have enough runs to play with, even though there are still three days left in this opening contest of a three-Test series.
Earlier, Potts – who enjoyed a superb first-innings return of 4-13 – struck again with a pre-lunch burst Friday of 2-11 in four overs.
For the second time in the match, the 23-year-old Durham quick dismissed New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
Potts, who had needed just five balls on Thursday to claim the scalp of the star batsman as his first Test wicket, produced a fine lifting delivery that Williamson could only edge to third slip Jonny Bairstow.
Williamson was out for 15 and New Zealand’s 30-2 soon became 35-3 when Potts had opener Tom Latham caught behind for 14.
After lunch, Devon Conway – who last year marked his Test debut with a brilliant double century at Lord’s – fell cheaply for the second time in this match when a mistimed pull off Stuart Broad was caught down the legside by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
But Mitchell, the son of former All Blacks rugby coach John Mitchell, hit two fours off successive balls from new England captain Ben Stokes – an inswinger clipped through midwicket followed by a straight drive down the ground off the pace-bowling all-rounder.
With New Zealand now 90-4 off 32 overs, Stokes summoned debutant leg-spinner Matt Parkinson for his first bowling stint in Test cricket.
Parkinson had become England’s inaugural concussion substitute after being summoned from Manchester on Thursday to replace Jack Leach, who had fallen on his head while saving a boundary.
Parkinson bowled tidily without threatening a wicket, having earlier helped England into a slender first-innings lead of nine runs batting at No 11.
Blundell square-drove Potts for four, his seventh boundary, after tea to complete a 101-ball fifty and, minutes later, Mitchell followed him to the landmark in 97 balls including five boundaries.
Their efforts ensured the work of new-ball duo Tim Southee (4-55) and left-armer Trent Boult (3-21) in getting New Zealand back to almost level terms wasn’t wasted.