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England v New Zealand: Daryl Mitchell & Tom Blundell give Black Caps edge

Second LV= Insurance Test, Trent Bridge (day one)
New Zealand 318-4 (87 overs): Mitchell 81*, Blundell 67*
England: Yet to bat
Scorecard

England are already facing a fight to get back into the second Test after New Zealand took the initiative on day one at Trent Bridge.

Asked to bat on a dry pitch by England captain Ben Stokes, the tourists moved to 318-4 as Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell repeated their huge stand from the first Test at Lord’s last week.

England recovered from a poor start with the ball to reduce the Black Caps to 169-4.

But Mitchell made 81 not out and Blundell is undefeated on 67 in an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 149.

Crucially, Mitchell survived a relatively straightforward chance to Joe Root at first slip when he had only three, while Blundell edged one through a static cordon late in the day.

England found themselves in danger at various points during the first Test, only to battle to a five-wicket win.

They will need similar resolve here, especially as they will bat last on a surface that could deteriorate.

England deceived by Trent Bridge conditions?

This was a fascinating, often fast-moving day of Test cricket, one made all the more intriguing by the fact both teams look to have mis-read the conditions.

Any criticism of Stokes’ decision to field first comes with hindsight. At the time of the toss, the pitch had a green tinge and there was some cloud cover overhead. Tom Latham, leading New Zealand after Kane Williamson was ruled out with Covid-19, also wanted to bowl.

However, the dry nature of the surface has left England with two problems. Firstly, New Zealand have been given the opportunity to build a big total, and there is the real chance that any chase later in the match will come with the challenge of some uneven bounce.

On a blustery day in Nottingham, England’s attack struggled for control – only James Anderson and Stokes can feel like they were near their best. Countless rejected requests for the umpires to change the ball gave away the hosts’ frustration.

England also fell into old habits with the missed catches – four of them in total, all in the slips.

By the close they were left knowing that an inconsistent batting line-up will have the huge task of playing them back into this match.

Mitchell and Blundell do it again

Mitchell and Blundell’s partnership of 195 almost gave England victory at Lord’s. Here they have already done enough to give the Black Caps the chance to level the series.

Those before them wasted starts. Will Young with 47, Devon Conway (46), Latham (26) and Henry Nicholls – replacing the injured Colin de Grandhomme – (30), all got in and got out.

Mitchell played a number of reverse-sweeps off the spinners and one of his two sixes – a straight hit off Jack Leach – landed in a spectator’s drink. Blundell excelled with drives and cuts through the off side.

Both were missed by Root, but whereas as Mitchell’s edge off Stokes should have been taken, Blundell’s flash at Leach on 47 was a difficult chance to the slip.

Then, with Stuart Broad using the second new ball, Blundell, on 63, edged between second slip Zak Crawley and third Jonny Bairstow, only for both to watch it go by.

England’s positivity put to the test

New captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum want England to play positively, even when they find themselves under pressure. That positivity was put to the test on a difficult day at Trent Bridge.

The decision at the toss was compounded by some wayward new-ball bowling. Young and Latham were allowed to add 84 for the first wicket, then Conway and Nicholls 77 for the third.

To their credit, England fought back on both occasions, each time through Stokes and Anderson, who took two wickets apiece with movement the others struggled to find.

Broad’s best period came in a spell after lunch – he had Nicholls dropped by Crawley – and Matthew Potts bowled either too full or too short for most of the day.

Left-arm spinner Leach, recovered from the concussion he suffered in the first Test, struggled to hold an end. In total, England leaked 45 boundaries.

The home side will at least return refreshed on Saturday morning with a ball that is only seven overs old.

If they can find a way to break the Mitchell-Blundell partnership, they will hope to make progress past debutant Michael Bracewell towards an aggressive Kiwi tail.

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