Ben Duckett and Harry Brook produced dashing half-centuries as England raced to 279 for five after two sessions of their day/night first Test against New Zealand.

Duckett’s dazzling 84 in 68 balls got the tourists up and running in rollicking fashion at the Bay Oval, but some slapdash dismissals prevented England from taking control until Brook arrived to reclaim the initiative.

At the dinner break he was 79no off 64 deliveries, in sniffing distance of a fourth Test ton in as many games after his prolific tour of Pakistan. He also has a chance of shooting for a 121-year-old record for England’s fastest Test hundred, with Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball effort from 1902 in his sights.

While Duckett was in full flow he looked as though he could get there too, but he chipped to short cover to slow the momentum.

There were a handful of soft dismissals that boosted an attack that included two debutants in Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn and had appeared to be there for the taking.

Joe Root fell for the first time to the reverse ramp shot he has added to the repertoire over the past year, a thrilling stroke when it comes off but a costly one here, and captain Ben Stokes hacked impatiently to mid-wicket.

Home skipper Tim Southee opted to make first use of the much-discussed pink ball and soon had the off-colour Zak Crawley in all sorts of trouble.

In the space of 14 torturous deliveries Crawley was dropped at third slip, clean bowled by Neil Wagner off a no-ball, beaten on both edges and finally caught by in the cordon off Southee.

Duckett found things considerably easier, driving busily through the covers and flicking well off his pads as he motored to a half-century in just 36 balls.

The hosts resorted quickly to short stuff as the early movement disappeared but Duckett appeared to be on course for a real rarity – a ton before the first break. Only six players have managed the feat in Test history and Duckett left the club intact when he pushed Tickner straight to Michael Bracewell.

England were 134 for two as they walked off at the first break, Pope mustering 30no after an early blow to the back of the helmet from Scott Kuggeleijn’s first delivery.

When play resumed Root foreshadowed his own fate, flipping his hands to loft Wagner over his shoulder for four. It has become something of a party piece for the former captain but it proved his undoing when he tried a repeat, fluffing his contact and feeding the alert Daryl Mitchell at slip.

By then Pope (42) had nicked off to a lavish drive and Stokes was not far behind, slapping Kuggelijn to mid-wicket after refusing to bide his time. At 209 for five, England had squandered some of their early credit but Brook was on hand to reverse that.

The Yorkshireman, who reached three figures in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi before Christmas, nailed 10 boundaries on his way to 50, hitting with fierce power down the ground.

He just cleared mid-off early in his innings, but the longer he stayed the cleaner he struck with one towering six off Southee serving as a real statement of intent.

Source link