Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley made a strong start in the run-chase before the latter was dismissed late on Day 4, to leave England needing 210 runs to win on the final day of the second Test. The target of 265, and the turnaround in the contest, was set up courtesy Kane Williamson's 26th Test century, backed up by half-centuries from Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell before Jack Leach's fifer bundled out New Zealand for 483 in their second essay.
For as action-packed as the day seemed, it wasn't really. New Zealand, who had resumed their innings 24 runs short of clearing England's first innings deficit, lost the wicket of Henry Nicholls after only 20 runs were added to the overnight total. Although the overnight batters - Nicholls and Williamson - had done well to negate the early threat from James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, Nicholls fell poking at a delivery away from stumps, and was caught by Brooks.
Nonetheless, Mitchell didn't allow England to take a dominant position. He went after the bowlers, stroking a run-a-ball 54. He looked busy right from the start of his innings, rotating the strike frequently. He even went after Anderson, taking advantage of the rare errors in length by the pacer, and crunching him for boundaries off the front foot and back.
Even as Williamson continued to adopt a defensive approach, Mitchell's attack ensured that the runs came quite fast once New Zealand took the lead. He brought up his half-century with a six down the ground off Jack Leach. Soon after bringing up his half-century, he was dismissed top-edging a pull off Stuart Broad which ballooned in the air and was caught by Joe Root.
Earlier, in the fourth ball of the day, Williamson had surpassed Ross Taylor to become the highest-scoring New Zealander in Tests when he whipped a delivery from Anderson through the mid-wicket region for a boundary. Williamson and Blundell batted out the entire post Lunch session without any trouble, taking advantage of the old ball and a pitch that has flattened out.
The duo largely remained cautious, but were quick to take advantage of the rare errors in lines by the English bowlers, as also find gaps on the field to pick up singles, twos and even a couple of threes.
With not much proving effective, Anderson even changed his line of operation and came around the wicket, but not with much success. Ollie Robinson created a chance when Blundell pulled a back-of-the-length delivery to Anderson at leg gully but was put down when he was batting on 30. He cashed in on that opportunity and went on to add 60 more runs to his tally before becoming the last batter to be dismissed.
As the session post Lunch session progressed and the bowlers tired out, more boundary-scoring opportunities came New Zealand's way, and Williamson was quick to pounce on those - without having to take additionals risks. He played his shots along the ground, often just glancing the ball down the leg side or opening the face of the bat to play behind the wicket on the off. He brought up his century by playing a widish ball outside off behind the square for a boundary.
However, the 158-run stand for the sixth wicket came to an end when Williamson caught an edge to the 'keeper for a harmless delivery down the leg side by Harry Brooks, ending his innings on 132. That dismissal opened the floodgates for a collapse. Seven overs later, Michael Bracewell was run out at the striker's end while attempting what seemed like a comfortable single.
Leach then wiped out the tail, bagging the last three wickets. Southee's attempt to hit Leach down the ground yet again backfired as he top-edged the hit and was caught. Matt Henry was undone by a typical left-armer spinner's delivery, although slightly faster, getting an outside edge to the slip fielder. Blundell, who had moved into the 90s and was running out of partners, went for a wild swing, only to get an edge to the slip fielder.
In response, England came hard - much along predicted lines. After five sedate overs, where Southee and Henry looked potent with the moving new ball, Crawley went on the offensive, cracking three boundaries off Southee - the first one leading to errors in length of the next two. Duckett didn't hold back for too long either, going on the backfoot to a half-tracker by Michael Bracewell and pulling a six.
Southee eventually had Crawley cleaned up on 24 with a delivery that pitched and nipped in. Duckett and nightwatch Robinson saw through the last three overs of the day safely to help England to 48 for 1 at stumps.
Brief Scores: England 435/8 decl. (Harry Brook 186, Joe Root 153*; Matt Henry 4-100, Michael Bracewell 2-54) & 48/1 (Zak Crawley 24) New Zealand 209 (Tim Southee 73, Tom Blundell 38; Stuart Broad 4-61, James Anderson 3-37) & 483 (Kane Williamson 132, Tom Blundell 90; Jack Leach 5-157) by 209 runs