Root and Stokes put England in sight of stunning victory
Joe Root and Ben Stokes gave England huge hope of a stunning victory on a gripping third day of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
Chasing a challenging 277, England reached 216-5, needing another 61 runs. Though captain Stokes was out for 54, former skipper Root remains on 77, having added 57 with Ben Foakes.
The fifth-wicket pair dragged the home side from 69-4 and England would have been 76-5 had Colin de Grandhomme not overstepped in bowling Stokes when he had only one.
The Stokes-Root partnership added 90 and was only ended by Stokes trying a needless uppercut that gave impressive pace bowler Kyle Jamieson a fourth wicket.
England’s turnaround began in the morning session, when they took three wickets in three balls to spark a New Zealand collapse of 6-34.
Daryl Mitchell completed a century, but after he was out for 108 and Tom Blundell for 96, the Black Caps were dismissed for 285.
Then came the ups and downs of the England chase, leaving the prospect of a grandstand conclusion on the fourth morning.
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This was a fascinating, fluctuating day of Test cricket, one on which each side enjoyed periods of momentum and ultimately ended with the match balanced on a knife-edge.
The Stuart Broad over in which England claimed the triple strike was electric, the hosts’ top-order collapse depressingly familiar, and the Root-Stokes fightback filled with tension.
In the case of Stokes, the captain evoked memories of the 2019 World Cup final, when he hauled England to a famous victory on this ground against the same opponents.
Stokes’ reprieve was a huge moment, a present on his 31st birthday. It was part of a miserable day for De Grandhomme, who was run out from the only ball he faced, took the wicket off a no-ball then hobbled out of the game with a heel strain.
If Stokes had remained, England would have started the fourth day as overwhelming favourites and probably much closer to victory, but New Zealand will return knowing they need only one wicket to expose a lengthy tail.
A second new ball is still 15 overs away, yet England are likely to have to come through that challenge if they are to win. (BBC Sport)