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England v New Zealand: third Test, day four – live!

80th over: New Zealand 249-5 (Mitchell 43, Blundell 41) I presume this’ll be the final over with the old rambutan because England will get to have a dart with it both before and after lunch. In the meantime, that’s another maiden to Leach and indeed England make the change immediately.

79th over: New Zealand 249-5 (Mitchell 43, Blundell 41) Ah yes, I was wondering if Stokes might allow a short leg as well as a slip and leg slip – Leach is bowling a tight line. Root has all three, and Blundell turns his final delivery to midwicket; Overton barrels after it and saves two with a painful-looking dive.

“Of course Jos Buttler watches the ball,” returns Tim Sanders. “It’s about the incredibly fine margins of how long a batter can keep still and wait, and still have time to decide and play the shot. Jonny did lose his way in Tests for a while, and of course Jos could come back. Here’s the late Ted Dexter explaining the art, better than I ever could.”

Sure – I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s beyond Buttler, who’s been let down by the carnage around him. How often has he been able to do what he’s there to do?

78th over: New Zealand 247-5 (Mitchell 43, Blundell 39) This is another good over from Leach, testing Mitchell with a tight line. I’d written more about it, but somehow it all vanished from my CMS, so you’ll have to forgive me and make do with me reporting a maiden.

“I email you after three days being a nurse at Headingley for this Test,” says Sam Charlton. “Tired is not the word. I have to say that I’ve enjoyed being here probably more than the ashes of 2019. I just love it when NZ come to town, it’s always a thrilling contest played in the spirit of cricket, solid sportsmanship and no posing. Here’s to a similar event next week.”

Great to hear and thanks for your efforts.

77th over: New Zealand 247-5 (Mitchell 43, Blundell 39) Better from Root, three dots, then Mitchell looks to turn off the hip when he might’ve left and the ball goes just over Pope at short leg; they run one. Then Mitchell comes down, can’t decide what shot to play, and checks a drive that drops just short of mid on!

Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

76th over: New Zealand 246-5 (Mitchell 42, Blundell 39) I wonder if England will keep Leach on when they take the new ball – i’d not be averse to seeing what he can do with the extra bounce. This latest over yields just one run, Mitchell nudging into the on side.

75th over: New Zealand 245-5 (Mitchell 41, Blundell 39) Root opens his second over with a dot but then Mitchell asserts his authority, twinkling down to hammer over long on for four, then easing back and clattering a wide one to the cover fence. That picking of length tells us plenty about why yerman has been so successful in this series, and he adds one more into the onside, having overtaken his mate in the scoring stakes. Root’s two overs today have yielded 19.

74th over: New Zealand 236-5 (Mitchell 32, Blundell 39) Two singles come from this latest Leach over, the partnership now at 67. These two have batted with such composure this morning.

“You say Buttler at 7 can’t work because that would leave keeper at 8 and ‘only 3 bowlers’… “ says Ewan Glenton. “Well, I was once at the Adelaide Oval (ODI, Jan 1980) and the West Indies lined up v England with an all-rounder (Collis King) down to bat at 6 (he actually went in at 5 because Lawrence Rowe was unfit to bat) – surely Stokes is at least as handy a bowler – and precisely 3 specialist bowlers. That worked fine, Windies thrashed England by 107 runs. Just by way of detail, the three bowlers names were Andy Roberts, Michael Holding & Joel Garner (Croft was deemed surplus that day). No spinner, only Viv Richards (who was surely no better than Root with the ball(?). So it can be a successful formula.”

I didn’t say it couldn’t work, but I don’t think this side is good enough to wear it on a regular precisely because they don’t have bowlers like Roberts, Holding and Garner, or batters like Richards, Lloyd, Greenidge and Haynes.

73rd over: New Zealand 234-5 (Mitchell 31, Blundell 38) Yup, Overton is despatched to hang about and, with just eight overs until the new igneous, Joe Root will have a twirl. So Mitchell gets down, reverse his first delivery for four, then chases a wide one, shuffles on his knees when it’s even wider than he thought, and when slips moves over to block the intended shot, he somehow drags it finer for four more. That’s excellent, inventive, improvisational batting, a two to square leg comes next, and that’s 10 off the over; the lead is 203, and England need something here.

72nd over: New Zealand 224-5 (Mitchell 21, Blundell 38) “Oh that’s so close!” chirps Billings, when Mitchell sweeps a single towards fine leg. I guess he’d have been out had he missed it, but he didn’t, so. Two more singles, then three dots complete another riveting Leach over, not words I necessarily expected to type when I stretched and flexed my fingers this morning.

71st over: New Zealand 221-5 (Mitchell 19, Blundell 37) This hasn’t been Overton’s best spell. Blundell gets on top of a bouncer to earn one towards point, then another bouncer is called wide for height. Mitchell then takes a further single to cover, before Blundell bottom-edges a pull to finest leg for four. Expensive over, and I daresay Overton is off for a graze now.

“Have you ANY idea what Jaffa, or more accurately JAFA, means in New Zealand?” asks Bill Bennett. Er, none whatsoever. “It’s what country people say: ‘Just Another F***ing Aucklander’.”

That’s great to know – the OBO is always grateful to expand its vitriol.

70th over: New Zealand 214-5 (Mitchell 18, Blundell 32) Blundell takes a risk moving back to one which keeps low and hurries on; he jams the bat down in the nick of time. For more dots follow, then a single to backward point ends the over.

“Although Jos Buttler is an amazing cricketer,” emails Tim Sanders, “I disagree with you and Steve Hudson. The important point that Mark Ramprakash made in his article was about the level of premeditation in limited overs batting generally, and Buttler’s in particular. Contrast that with Jonny Bairstow’s comments when interviewed on Friday, about watching the ball and responding in the moment. That’s what makes the difference against the moving ball.”

Perhaps – I don’t think watching the ball is beyond him, and it’s taken Bairstow plenty of time to find what we’ve seen from him lately. I’d think about giving Buttler a go when one of 4-6 weren’t available or needed dropping, but otherwise I don’t now where you fit him on.

69th over: New Zealand 213-5 (Mitchell 18, Blundell 31) Blundell takes one to fine leg then Mitchell does likewise to extra, giving him his 5ooth run of the series; great stuff. So Overton bangs one in and Blundell’s eyes light up – he absolutely cleanses a pull to deep square that Bairstow’s dive can’t yank back. Four to the total, the fifty partnership, and Bairstow runs off for what we can probably assume are minor repairs; a bumper follows and Blundell pulls for a single. The lead is 182.

68th over: New Zealand 206-5 (Mitchell 17, Blundell 25) That’s another maiden, and Leach is building pressure now!


That’s a great review from Mitchell, though who knows if he knew that was just too high. But it was, the big stride saving him.

Some picture, though.
Some picture, though. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

New Zealand review!

It looked good to me…

WICKET! Mitchell lbw b Leach 17 (New Zealand 206-6)

Jack Leach in the house! He finds turn and bounce, Mitchell comes forward but can’t get bat around pad, and when the ball hits the latter, the finger goes up!

68th over: New Zealand 206-5 (Mitchell 17, Blundell 25) OK, there’s something there for Leach! As he did when binning Young in the first innings, he finds some drift, Mitchell presses forward and sees the ball zip past his edge!

67th over: New Zealand 206-5 (Mitchell 17, Blundell 25) Overton continues after drinks and the batters taken a single apiece, then a bouncer that Blundell contemplates hooking is called wide on height. I feel like I’ve said this on various occasions during this Test, but I’d like to see Stokes have a bowl.

66th over: New Zealand 203-5 (Mitchell 16, Blundell 24) Oooh yeah! There’s the jaffa I wasn’t expecting, Leach wide of the crease, spinning hard off the straight – not the rough – so good it misses everything, beating bat and gloves before running away for four byes! That completes a good first hour for the tourists, and it’s time for drinks.

65th over: New Zealand 199-5 (Mitchell 16, Blundell 24) Again, Overton begins his over with muck, so Blundell carts him to the square leg fence via pull. A single to cover follows, then another pilfered into the on side by Mitchell.

“Thoughts about Buttler,” says Steve Hudson. “A fabulous talent and very much suited to the McCricket style. Like everyone I had concluded that he just wasn’t suited to Test cricket and needed to be binned. But then reading Mark Ramprakash’s comments on him in the Graun, I wonder. Ramps said that when he was England’s batting coach he worked with Buttler and that Buttler’s main difficulty is that he never felt he knew when to bat ‘properly’ and when to blitz the bowling. If that is the case, might there be room for him as a No 7, with a McLicence to blitz the bowling from the word go, regardless of the situation? A big risk, a luxury player maybe, but imagine how intimidating a lineup at 5, 6 and 7 would be, Stokes, Barstow and Buttler.”

I’d love to see it, but I’m not sure this side can ride a specialist seven because then you’ve got Foakes at eight and only three bowlers.

64th over: New Zealand 193-5 (Mitchell 15, Blundell 19) Yeah, Mitchell is seeing it now, easing a front foot forward and collaring a sweep from outside off the fence at deep backward square. Leech won’t mind him playing a shot, but it feels like he’s waiting for a miscue rather than setting up a jaffa probing to w.in the battle of wits

63rd over: New Zealand 189-5 (Mitchell 11, Blundell 19) Eeesh, Overton begins with an overpitched gift on the pads and Blundell isn’t missing out on that, power-flicking four through midwicket. Those are the only runs from the over and these two are every bit as assured as we’ve come to expect. England could use something here, as we near the end of the crucial first hour and segue into the crucial second hour.

62nd over: New Zealand 185-5 (Mitchell 11, Blundell 15) No: though Potts does take a blow, it’s Leach not Overton replacing him. I’m enjoying Stokes’ commitment to trust his spinner – more than I’m enjoying the actual spinner, if I’m being brutal – because that’s still the way to get most from him. Blundell goes back to his loosener, forcing a single to point, then defends five dots; good start from Leach, for which he’s rewarded with an arm around by Billings.

61st over: New Zealand 184-5 (Mitchell 11, Blundell 14) Blundell deflects Broad to off and sprints through for a single, the only run off the over. Both sides will be relatively happy with the start they’ve made, New Zealand probably more so because this partnership, though it’s not contributed much in the way of runs so far, is still intact.

Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell have been batting together for 23% of this entire Test series

— Ben Jones (@benjonescricket) June 26, 2022

60th over: New Zealand 183-5 (Mitchell 11, Blundell 13) I wonder if we might see Overton after this over – another tight one from Potts, but I reckon Stokes will want to pose a different challenge. Meantime, in comms, Sanga wonders what Jos Buttler might do at the top of the order in Tests, which is not something I was expecting to hear – maybe I’m burned after advocating for Jason Roy then seeing how that went – but that doesn’t sound like the best use of him. The problem with Buttler was that he was constantly coming in in a crisis, and it’s hard to see where you insert him into this side unless he’s got the gloves, which isn’t happening anytime soon – though I guess it might’ve happened today. Maiden.

59th over: New Zealand 183-5 (Mitchell 11, Blundell 13) Thing is, when you’re in the form that Mitchell is you can be patient without platzing for your next run. So he keeps calm, then when broad is too straight he twizzles him off the tootsies for four to deep square, his first scoring shot of the morning. Broad, though, responds in typical fashion; he’s mainly been taking it away so far, but the nip-backer slices through Mitchell at the midriff and is jags back in, narrowly avoiding edge and stumps. Again, Mitchell retains noggin, turning into the leg side and dragging Blundell back for two as the throw slams into Billings’s gloves. It’s pretty windy out there this morning; when Broad charges in, he aborts in the delivery stride when caught by a gust before Mitchell nurdles one more to leg. He’s into the session.

58th over: New Zealand 176-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 13) Ooooh well bowled! Five tight deliveries, then an absolutely beauty that pins Blundell on the crease, bounces and nips away from his outside edge while keeping him cramped. Three maidens on the spin.

Close for Ben Stokes and England.
Close for Ben Stokes and England. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters

57th over: New Zealand 176-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 13) New Zealand’s lead is 145 as Broad struts in, hurling down four dots before the ball is under review once again. Out comes the briefcase, Umpire Kettleborough selects

Marsellus Wallace’s soul Fiesta
and Ben Stokes performatively punches air. That’s a third straight maiden and I think we’ll soon see Jamie Overton, who’s stretching away.

“Greetings from the Lugogo Oval in Kampala,” says Andy Kineen, “where Uganda are playing local rivals Kenya in an atmosphere that’s banging to the point of deafening. You can keep your Macca at Glasto, here we’ve got a dude dancing on stilts to Afrobeats.”

This sounds incredible, further details and photos greatly received.

56th over: New Zealand 176-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 13) It’s funny really, for all the talk of cavalier cricket, England have been getting their wickets in a more Andy Flower kind of way, keeping it tight and waiting for error or the ball to do just enough – and as I type that, Potts spirits one past Blundell’s outside edge, then again, the ball straightening off the seam to induce the forward press. Excellent over, and another maiden.

“Potts ahead of Wood?” asks Ed Bannister. “Not for me Clive I mean Daniel – fitness and longevity issues notwithstanding. I agree on the rest though…”

I wasn’t expressing a preference – I too would find it hard to exclude a fit Wood – but I don’t think the selectors are binning Potts if he’s fit.

55th over: New Zealand 176-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 13) Broad’s bowling pretty full here, which seems like a good call – though Mitchell, who’s facing, wants to come forward. He plays out a testing maiden with all the confidence you’d expect from a man in such ridiculous form.

Martyn Reynolds emails in asking for the TSM overseas link; go well.

54th over: New Zealand 176-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 13) Potts really does look the part doesn’t he? He moves one back into Blundell, who leaves well, and is now the man in possession. I’d be looking to get Archer back in as soon as he’s fit, but Potts is now ahead of Wood, Stone, Woakes and the Overtons (of this world). Does that count of pluralisation, of do we need to say the Overtonses for those purposes? As I type that, of course, he overpitches and Blundell cracks him for four to long off, but still, he’s been one big positive and clearly has loads of room to improve.

53rd over: New Zealand 172-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 9) There’s a touch of Pietersen/Collingwood about this partnership, not in strokeplay terms, but that one, KP and Mitchell, wants to get forward and the other, Collingwood and and Blundell, hangs back. That’s aggravating to bowl to … but there’s little better bowling to watch than an aggravated SJ Broad. He starts nicely too, his fourth delivery nipping off the pitch and away from Mitchell’s outside edge. Maiden.

52nd over: New Zealand 172-5 (Mitchell 4, Blundell 9) Unusually for him, Potts is leg-sideish to begin with and Blundell wastes not time turning him to deep square for four.

It’s Matt Potts to finish his over from last evening, which isn’t just an excuse to say last evening, I promise.

The teams are with us and here we go!

What a great addition Mark Butcher is to Sky’s A-Team. He’s been quietly engaging, enlightening and witty on the county stuff for years, and is now adding a new dimension to the Test coverage. It’s great to see.

Email! “They’re still using petrol powered rollers at Headingley by the looks of it,” says Andrew Benton. “There should be a blanket ban on non-renewable-powered grounds equipment – power sockets are only a trundle to the boundary away.”

I can’t claim to be an expert in this field but yup, that sounds reasonable to me.

Amazingly, yesterday was a phenomenally uplifting day in the green-and-pleasants. Bread and circuses, yes, but we’ve got to take our joy where we can find it. McCartney and Glasto singing Hey Jude together, oof madone.

The atmosphere yesterday was absolutely banging, and I’m sure we’re down for more of the same today.

Branderson who?

Happily for us, this is not today’s only cricket – far from it. Join Tanya Aldred at the Oval for Champo fun!

1999. Time to party, yes, but also the year that England last met New Zealand in a series of longer than three matches. Frankly, it’s an absolute nonsense, and not just because of the how consistently excellent the matches are – that’s a bonus. Ultimately, sport – in a sporting sense – is about the contest, identifying the better team. That has nothing whatsoever to do viewing figures, the prioritising of which are to the game’s shame.

You only have to test if you’ve symptoms and Foakes was off the park yesterday with a sore back. Feel better soon, Ol Blue Eyes.

Ben Foakes tests positive for Covid-19 and is out of the match

Sam Billings replaces him.


Far be it for the OBO to offer guidance of any kind, but before the start of what we know for almost certain is another bazzing day of Test Match CricketTM, it might be worth taking a moment to be very, er, intentional about, um, staying in the moment to be, well, present in enjoying it. We’ve seen some seriously affirming stuff these last few summers, but even in that context this has been a helluva ruckus. May we know many others.

Somehow, during the course of it England have become a team, winning the big sessions and refusing to retreat when things have gone against them. If it wasn’t for the comfortable familiarity of some avante-garde slip catching, it’d be quite disconcerting.

So they start today as favourites to complete a series whitewash, and with good reason. But for all England’s rejuvenation, they’ve also been served well by the chaotically fine margins of elite sport – fitness, form and fortune have all gone in their favour – and the world champions are plenty good enough to reverse that, especially with Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell at the crease. The first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth hours could be crucial

Play: 11am BST

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