Rory Burns was out shortly after bringing up his second Test hundred as England steadily accumulated on day three against New Zealand at Hamilton.
A 177-run partnership was the cornerstone of England’s teatime total of 218 for three in the second Test which ended when Burns was run out for 101, just short of his ground coming back for a second run.
England captain Joe Root seems poised to follow the opener to three figures as he heads into the final session on 84 not out, as his side closed to within 157 of New Zealand’s first-innings 375 all out.
After helping to restrict the Black Caps to under 400 on Saturday, England seamer Stuart Broad opined that “if you were good at batting, you’d fancy” batting on the benign surface at Seddon Park.
Indeed, Broad even tipped Burns as England’s key batsman, who was dropped on 10 and 19 the previous evening as the tourists limped to 39 for two, with Dom Sibley and Joe Denly back in the pavilion.
New Zealand may have ended day two on top but they lacked a cutting edge on a surface where movement through the air or off the pitch was at a premium.
Burns got himself into a brief tangle when a shorter delivery from Neil Wagner thudded into his chest while the England opener turned the next ball just out of reach of the diving leg gully fielder.
However, in Wagner’s next over, Burns authoritatively pulled New Zealand’s left-arm enforcer for back-to-back fours.
Wagner responded by beating the outside edge while Burns top-edged a pull short of the deep square-leg fielder before completing a nuggety half-century.
Root was looking much more composed at the other end, initially sprightly before slowing up a touch when Mitch Santner came into the attack.
But there was little troubling him until he was given out, apparently strangled down the leg-side off Daryl Mitchell, three shy of his 50.
Root immediately reviewed and the decision was overturned when technology showed he had not feathered through to the wicketkeeper, and the Yorkshireman reached a 145-ball 50 shortly afterwards.
Strong extended morning session for @englandcricket with Joe Root (50*) and Rory Burns (76*) scoring at a decent clip, both with half centuries. Root was given OUT caught down the leg side, but DRS came to his rescue 🏏— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 1, 2019
🏴 CARD | https://t.co/6N136NPhv2#NZvENG #cricketnation pic.twitter.com/dY7kLEARL5
There were remarkably few alarms after lunch for a side whose batting has been constantly under scrutiny in the last few years, Burns and Root settling into a patient rhythm that the Kiwis could do little about.
Indeed, the only worry for England seemed to be some miscommunication between Root and Burns, who was sent back attempting a second on 87 and survived only because Matt Henry interfered with a throw from mid-on.
Burns coolly went to his second Test century and first overseas but was out for 101, run out coming back for a second following Jeet Raval’s throw from midwicket.
The decision was checked and deliberated upon for a lengthy period but Burns was just short of his ground.
Ben Stokes (10 not out) joined Root at the crease for the remaining few minutes before the tea break, with New Zealand taking the second new ball in the over before.