Latham, Williamson defy England, New Zealand reaches 125-1

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Tom Latham’s half century helped New Zealand fight its way back into the third and final test against England on Saturday by reaching 125-1 at tea on Day 3.

Latham and captain Kane Williamson batted almost the entire middle session for New Zealand’s overall lead of 94 runs. Joe Root dropped a regula-tion catch of Latham just before tea as the left-hander reached 76 with Williamson not out on 37.

Earlier, Jamie Overton missed out on a dream hundred in his debut test match but Jonny Bairstow’s masterful 162 gave England a slender first innings lead of 31 runs.

Overton, who made 97, and Bairstow’s record-breaking seventh wicket stand of 241 lifted England from a precarious 55-6 to 360 all out before the hosts got bowled out before lunch.

New Zealand, already trailing in the series 2-0, was dismissed for 329 in the first innings.

England had made early inroads when Matthew Potts found the outside edge of Will Young (8) in the third over after lunch.

But Latham and Williamson batted solidly against the pace and dominated the spin of Jack Leach before Stuart Broad induced a healthy outside edge of Latham’s bat which Root couldn’t hold onto in the first slip.

There was virtually no lateral movement for the fast bowlers and Latham was quick to punish any-thing pitched in the slot. Both batters also played some impressive sweep shots and had combined in hitting 18 fours.

Earlier, Overton was overcautious against the pace after resuming on 89 overnight before square driving Trent Boult for his first boundary of the day.

Bairstow, 130 overnight, raised England’s sec-ond-fastest 150 in a test match off 144 balls when he drove Neil Wagner through covers for two runs and was duly applauded by his hometown supporters at Headingley.

Boult, who had sliced through England’s top or-der, finally broke the stand when Overton edged a low catch in the slips after the left-arm fast bowler changed the line by coming round the wicket. Over-ton’s brilliant counter-attack came off 136 balls and featured 13 fours and two sixes. Boult finished with 4-104.

Broad then played a superb cameo of 42 off 36 balls that included sixes against both Boult and Wagner before Tim Southee (3-100) hit the top of the stumps and had the left-hander clean bowled.

Bairstow’s second successive blistering knock of the series finally ended when he came down the wicket against the spin of Michael Bracewell and Boult took a smart catch at long-off. Boult slid for-ward and grabbed the ball inches above the ground as Bairstow got a thunderous applause from his supporters while walking back to the dressing room.

Bairstow’s blistering knock off 157 balls fea-tured 24 fours as he decimated both spin and pace of New Zealand and had given England a chance to clean sweep the three-match series.—AFP

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