After another cracking day in a terrific series New Zealand start the day 137 runs ahead and with the new old firm, Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell, with their feet under the table. Yes, their partnership may only be seven so far but to date in this series they have made 236, 45 and 120 batting together. England will think they can chase down anything given Lord’s and Trent Bridge but they would make life a lot easier if they could roll these two over cheaply this morning.
England have a new/old face behind the stumps at the start of day four. Ben Foakes has tested positive for Covid and he will be replaced, as per ICC regulations, by Sam Billings on a like-for-like basis. Billings, who was oddly absent from the white-ball Netherlands series, made his Test debut in Hobart five months ago, making 29 & 1 and holding five catches in the 146-run defeat. You can read the full story here.
I though Stokes handled his bowlers very well yesterday and, being one himself, has a far more intuitive and sympathetic understanding of them than Joe Root and Alastair Cook. They had Broad and Anderson and, Cook for a year, also had Graeme Swann, all of them world-class, all of them England Test hall of fame greats. Once they had gone I though Cook was poor in his use of Moeen Ali, Root poor in his handling of Jofra Archer and Jack Leach, and others many. One of the most impressive things about Stokes’ captaincy do far has been his relationship with Matthew Potts and Jack Leach, both of them blossoming in his belief in them. I thought Leach bowled so poorly at Trent Bridge he ought to be dropped. But it goes to show I’m just a hack. Stokes kept faith and has been rewarded. Leach has looked a different man with the Headingley crowd at his back, not on it.
Stuart Broad is currently being interviewed on Sky Sports by Kumar Sangakkara and NAsser Hussain and says the big difference is that the bowlers now have ‘mental freedom’, Stokes has liberated all of them, even ones with almost 550 and 700 wickets respectively. Free your minds …
Right, on with the match. They start at 11am.