24 May 2015

Cloud cover could swing Test NZ's way

6:34 pm on 24 May 2015

The New Zealand batsmen Kane Williamson says cloud cover over London will dim England's chances of resisting the Black Caps' swing bowlers.

Day four of the first test at Lord's starts on Sunday with England at 74 for two in their second innings, 60 runs behind New Zealands 1st innings total of 523.

Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, England's two most experienced batsmen, withstood a fearsome working over by the New Zealand pace attack in a gripping final session of the third day.

Alastair Cook at bat during the 2nd innings at Lord's, 2015.

Alastair Cook at bat during the 2nd innings at Lord's, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The pair came together with England reeling on 25 for two and a rampant Trent Boult and Tim Southee steaming in at Lord's supported by a raft of close fielders including the unusual sight of five slips.

It was a vital session for Cook, in particular, who made his first international century for nearly two years in the West Indies this month but failed in the first innings against New Zealand.

There were signs that the technique which was questioned during his poor run but has brought him 26 test centuries, the most by any England player, was working effectively again.

The 30-year-old left-hander left the ball well, played confident defensive shots with a straight bat and punished the few bad balls he received ruthlessly to move to 32 not out.

Bell, who has made 22 test hundreds, also had a point to prove.

Ian Bell bats during England's second innings at Lord's, May 2015.

Ian Bell bats during England's second innings at Lord's, May 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 33-year-old made a sublime 143 in the first test against West Indies in Antigua but followed that with scores of 11, one, nought and nought in the Caribbean before being bowled by Matt Henry for one in the first innings at Lord's.

He looked in determined mood on day three, however.

Solid in defence, he refused to be subdued and struck four fours with trademark drives through the covers on his way to 29.

It was only a small step for two players who will play crucial roles in England's bid to win back the Ashes.

But if one of them can go on to make a century England will have a good chance of winning the match and lifting morale before the Ashes.

Williamson, who struck his 10th Test century for New Zealand on day three, noted how arduous batting became when the clouds rolled in over north London.

"When the clouds came over it made batting extremely difficult...on a good batting surface under pressure against avery good England bowling attack who bowled superbly."

"The cloud cover would be nice if we're still bowling and hopefully the sun pops out when we're having to chase," said Williamson.

The Black Caps batsman Kane Williamson celebrates his century.

The Black Caps batsman Kane Williamson celebrates his century. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Williamson's well-constructed 132 was the centrepiece of New Zealand's 523 all out which gave them a first-innings lead of 134.

New Zealand, bidding for just their second Test victory at Lord's of all time, resumed on 303 for 2 on day three with Williamson 92 not out and Ross Taylor unbeaten on 47.

Batting with impressive serenity for a 24-year-old, Williamson's century came in just over three hours off 148 balls including 12 fours.

It was the talented stroke-player's 10th hundred in 40 Tests -- an impressive strike-rate -- and the 14th by a New Zealand batsman in a Test at Lord's.

Bounce proved Taylor's undoing when he fended at a rising ball from Stuart Broad and was brilliantly caught, one-handed down the legside at full stretch, by diving wicket-keeper Jos Buttler for 62.

Captain Brendon McCullum then entered and struck his first ball, from Broad, through cover-point for four.

Captain Brendon McCullum off the mark with a first ball four, Lord's 2015.

Captain Brendon McCullum off the mark with a first ball four, Lord's 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Much praised for his dynamism during New Zealand's run to the one-day World Cup final, McCullum's form continued until he became Mark Wood's first Test wicket after an outside-edge off an attempted pull flew to Root at third man.

McCullum's quickfire innings of 42 off just 38 balls included six fours and a six.

Williamson, who had survived a stumping chance on 92 yesterday, was given another reprieve on 120 when he guided Stokes to second slip only for Bell to drop the catch.

It was the second time in the match that Bell had dropped a slip catch off the unlucky Durham all-rounder.

Williamson was eventually out when an inside edge off his pad against Ali was caught by Gary Ballance at backward short leg.

But wicket-keeper BJ Watling, who'd spent much of England's first innings off the field with a knee injury, struck a breezy 61 not out including 11 fours.

England's shoddy display in the field was exemplified by the fact they conceded 67 extras -- the fifth-highest total in any Test innings.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.