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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

BJ Watling masterclass turns tables on England

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Watling's unbeaten century puts New Zealand ahead (1:48)

BJ Watling hit his eighth hundred for New Zealand as his side finished Day 3 with a 41-run lead over England. (1:48)

New Zealand 394 for 6 (Watling 119*, Santner 31*) lead England 353 (Stokes 91, Denly 74, Burns 52, Southee 4-88) by 41 runs

BJ Watling embodies many of the traits that make New Zealand such an accomplished Test side. Skilful but unflashy, hard-working and unflappable under pressure, impressive as an individual but wedded to the team's cause. The going has been tough in Mount Maunganui's maiden Test, but it was no surprise that Watling got going in response to leave New Zealand on top at the end of day three.

England have not won a Test in this part of the world in more than a decade, and although they began the day with designs on a first-innings lead, Watling's unbeaten, 298-ball effort left them in no doubt as to the size of their challenge if they are to put one over on the No. 2-ranked side. A century stand between Watling and Colin de Grandhomme ground down the resolve of England's attack, who could only manage two wickets in the day - one of them coming via Joe Root's occasional offspin.

Watling did give up one chance, dropped at slip on 31 by the usually reliable Ben Stokes, but otherwise applied himself adroitly in conditions that lent themselves to his preferred mode of unobtrusive accumulation. He brought up his eighth Test hundred, and second in consecutive innings, with a leg-side nurdle halfway through the evening session, and briefly allowed himself a moment in the sun as the first man to reach such a milestone at Bay Oval. Then it was back on with the helmet and on with the job at hand.

By that stage, Watling and Mitchell Santner had taken New Zealand into the lead, and they were able to extend their partnership through to the close as England endured a long, hot day in the dirt. While Santner faced numerous uncomfortable moments in the face of a peppering from Stokes, he dug in for more than 100 balls to further stymie England.

There were questions about Root's tactics, having opted not to use Jofra Archer at the start of the day and then delaying taking the second new ball. Stokes was curiously ignored during the afternoon session, too, and he seemingly underscored the point by taking a wicket with his first delivery when called on after tea - Dom Sibley pulling off a brilliant one-handed catch to send back de Grandhomme for 65.

England's frustrations were epitomised by Archer, who occasionally threatened to produce the fire-breathing form of his debut home summer - at one point sending the speed gun above 150kph - but remained wicketless after the DRS overturned an lbw decision against Watling late in the day. Archer was also convinced he had trapped Watling shortly after he had reached a 149-ball half-century, only for England to burn their second review as ball-tracking adjudged it to be going over the stumps.

New Zealand's sixth-wicket partnership, which eventually realised 119 runs, began in watchful fashion, after the dismissal of Henry Nicholls had left them 197 for 5. But Watling and de Grandhomme turned the screw during the afternoon as they extended their association into three figures and Root shuffled through his options.

Some occasional signs of low bounce - notably when Nicholls was given out lbw against Jack Leach only to successfully review - were not enough to unsettle Watling, who again found a valuable ally in the more assertive de Grandhomme. Their rapid century stand at Colombo's P Sara Oval in August set up a series-levelling win against Sri Lanka in New Zealand's last Test outing, and the pair were soon setting the tone again here.

De Grandhomme took 14 balls to get off the mark, before taking up the cudgels. He was briefly troubled by Sam Curran's inswing after lunch, but responded with a brace of fours when the bowler overpitched. He then took on Archer's short stuff, hooking for six with two men back and bringing up a 73-ball half-century with a pull for two off the same bowler. He was on 62 when Rory Burns could not cling on to a rasping chance in the gully, Burns suffering a split thumb in the process.

Having claimed the key wicket of Kane Williamson on the second evening, and seen Nicholls struck on the helmet by Archer in the closing exchanges, England's ambition would have been to chisel out a couple more New Zealand batsmen during the first hour - in the end, that was as many as they could manage in the day.

Just 11 runs came from the first eight overs, delivered by Curran and Stuart Broad, and Archer's introduction did little to alter the course of proceedings beyond the loss of a review when seeking another lbw verdict, this time against Nicholls. New Zealand's fifth-wicket pair were happy to tick over, and it wasn't until Root decided to investigate the possibilities of spin that things livened up.

First Leach won a leg-before decision against Nicholls, only for DRS to show that the impact was fractionally outside the line of off stump. Root then brought himself on from the other end, saw Watling dropped at slip by Stokes from his second ball, and trapped Nicholls in front with his fourth. For England's captain, that was about as good as it got.

England 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st48RJ BurnsDP Sibley
2nd5JL DenlyRJ Burns
3rd2JL DenlyMJ Leach
4th14JL DenlyJE Root
5th52JL DenlyBA Stokes
6th11JL DenlyOJ Pope
7th1JC ButtlerOJ Pope
8th5JC ButtlerSM Curran
9th59SM CurranJC Archer
10th0SCJ BroadSM Curran