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Kane Williamson dismissal must be a worry for New Zealand

Sam Curran claimed the key wicket of Kane Williamson AFP

Captain Cook must have been a batsman. For it was Cook - James Cook, that is - who named this area the Bay of Plenty. And you can see why. With kiwifruit and lemons growing in the hedges, with its perfect beaches and bountiful seas it is (give or take the lack of ozone layer and subsequently inevitable sun-burn) pretty much paradise. Unless, of course, you're a bowler. Because being a bowler round here must be like being a Moa. There were, scientists reckon, somewhere around 60,000 Moa when the first people arrived in New Zealand in about 1300. A hundred or so years later there weren't any. The combination of being flightless, defenceless and delicious proved disastrous.

For the Bay Oval pitch has, with one moment of exception, offered very little to bowlers. While the ball has provided a modest amount of swing, the surface hasn't offered any more than the most negligible seam or spin. And what lateral movement the bowlers have managed has largely been negated by the lack of pace in the pitch.

To be fair, this pitch is no batsman's paradise, either. It's too slow for that. And, as Kane Williamson's wicket showed - he was unlucky to receive one that reared on him out of nowhere - it may start to deteriorate in the second half of the match.

On such surfaces, there is little option but to play attritional cricket. Bowlers have to try to frustrate the batsmen; the batsmen have to resist. Whether that represents the ideal surface for modern Test cricket is debatable. For those already converted to the charms of the longest format, it's absorbing. But for uninitiated? Well, there aren't many modern forms of entertainment that take as long to unfold, though maybe those unique qualities are a positive. It's all felt reasonably engrossing.

But if you are asked to play cricket on a surface like this, of one thing you can be sure: it's a lot less effort to bat on it than bowl on it. And, at this point, the batsmen on both sides may feel they have lacked just a bit of ruthlessness and failed to fully take advantage of the benign pitch.

Take the wicket of Ben Stokes, for example. He had looked in almost complete control on the second morning until, advancing down the pitch to counteract the lack of pace and probing length of the excellent Tim Southee, he sliced his lavish drive to slip. It was what, in tennis, would be termed an unforced error and precipitated a collapse that saw England lose four wickets for 18 runs in 21 balls. Ollie Pope, chasing a wide one, was just as culpable.

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You do have to give credit to Southee, though. He is, up to a point, the Moa that found a way to survive. So demanding was the length he bowled that, on this surface, he was enticing the batsmen to try to take risks if they were going to pick up the pace of scoring. And with just enough swing to punish any batsman error and his immaculate control - there were seven maidens in his 32 overs - he would have claimed his first five-for of the year had he received the support he deserved from his fielders.

The wicket of Williamson was a bit disappointing, though. While irregular bounce is, up to point, part of the game, you would not necessarily expect it on day two of a Test. Here Williamson, to that point almost completely untroubled, was unfortunate enough to receive a ball from Sam Curran which reared on him and produced a fenced catch to the cordon. Natural variation? Maybe. It didn't seem completely meritocratic, though.

"He was looking reasonably comfortable and he got one that reared off a length," Southee said. "It can happen. That's the unknown of playing a first Test at this ground."

Either way, it underlined one of the two significant advantages which England have going into day three. The first is they won the toss. And despite not taking full use of the surface when it offered so little to bowlers - "We're a little bit disappointed we only managed to get what we did," Curran admitted; "we probably wanted to sneak over the 400-mark" - they have probably scored enough to make life uncomfortable for New Zealand. If the Williamson dismissal turns out to be anything other than aberrational, batting fourth could be desperately tough. It may well turn out to be a disproportionately important toss.

"It probably took off a little bit, but that's a really good sign for us knowing we've got runs on the board," Curran said. "With a few more rolls, the wicket may start being a bit uneven. Fingers crossed there can be a few more and it gets worse as the game goes on because, most likely, we'll be bowling last and they'll be the ones batting. that will suit us."

England's other significant advantage is the presence of a spinner who can play a holding role. Mitchell Santner delivered only six overs in England's entire first innings; an innings that lasted for 124 overs and almost exactly nine hours. In the 51 overs delivered by England, Jack Leach has contributed 12. And while Santner conceded four an over, Leach has conceded 2.41 an over and already has the wicket of Jeet Raval - who probably has more to regret than any other batsman to this point after departing to a hideous slog - to show for it.

That means Joe Root is able to rest and rotate his seamers. So while New Zealand's fast bowlers were sometimes required to bowl lengthy spells - Neil Wagner's first spell, albeit split by the lunch break, was 12 overs - Jofra Archer has, until now, not been required to bowl more than four overs in a spell, while Stuart Broad's second spell was six overs.

"We've had a nice policy of Leachy holding up one end and rotating the four seamers from the other," Curran said afterwards. "Which is quite nice as a seam group. You know you can keep rotating in short, sharp spells, so you don't get too tired throughout the day. We'll come back in the morning, we'll be pretty fresh and ready to go again."

The main issue may simply be time. On this surface, it remains desperately tough for batsmen or bowlers to force the pace. But that Williamson dismissal must be a worry for New Zealand.