Stuart Broad stepped up to lead the England charge as New Zealand’s top-order wobbled in friendly conditions on the first morning of the final LV= Insurance Test at Headingley.
With blue skies overhead and a grassless surface underfoot both teams were eager to bat first, but England responded brilliantly after losing the toss to leave the tourists uncomfortably set on 65 for three.
Looking for a 3-0 series sweep after exciting chases at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, England leaned heavily on Broad’s experience in the absence of fellow old stager James Anderson, who was missing with an ankle injury.
The 35-year-old is no recluse when it comes to embracing the spotlight and took his first wicket before a run had even been scored, Tom Latham caught in two minds as he nudged the final ball of the opening over straight to Joe Root at first slip.
New Zealand would have hoped to brush that setback off on a pitch offering decent carry, a hint of seam movement but nothing truly treacherous. But they never quite looked in complete control, captain Kane Williamson flicking Broad down leg on nought and giving wicketkeeper Ben Foakes a sliver of a chance.
Matthew Potts’ new-ball spell came and went without a serious chance, though the Durham player was far from overawed by inheriting Anderson’s role, and debutant Jamie Overton offered signs of his express pace. His first delivery was an 88mph bouncer and, though he did not maintain that speed throughout, he did locate a more challenging length and a touch of swing.
It was spinner Jack Leach who landed England’s next blow, given an early look as Ben Stokes offered him the 12th over of the day. His first ball drifted in, straightened up off the pitch and hit a crouched Young halfway up the front pad. He was sent on his way lbw, with an unwise DRS referral doing him few favours.
That left Williamson and Devon Conway, New Zealand’s two most reliable players, to lead a fightback and for a while they made steady progress. But once again, Stokes shuffled his pack adeptly.
Withdrawing Leach after five overs, he asked for Broad to give him one more attacking burst. Williamson was undone by it, feeling for a subtly-disguised leg-cutter and nicking behind for an unfulfilled 31, but Conway got away with one.
When Broad found his inside edge from round the wicket, Conway guilty of a rare uncertain prod, the ball disappeared past Foakes’ full-stretch dive for the second time in the morning. He had just 11 to his name at the time and will need plenty more to power his team to the kind of score they will need.
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