The Black Caps fight back from a slow start of the second test against England. Video / Spark Sport
Will Young made a late run for inclusion in the World Test Championship final next week, before giving his only plausible rival for a top order spot a massive hand up as he fought his way back into form.
Young top-scored with a composed 82 as New Zealand batted themselves into a strong position after two days of the second and final test against England. It would have been a perfect day for the visitors had the right-hander not succumbed to ungainly part-time spinner Dan Lawrence in the last over before stumps.
New Zealand finished the day at Edgbaston on 229-3 in reply to England’s first innings of 303.
It is the first time in three innings across three sporadic tests that Young has passed 50. He shared a 122-run partnership with two-test sensation Devon Conway who added to his reputation with a polished 80 that ended when he picked out the man at deep square with same sort of extravagant flick that brought up his debut century at Lord’s a week ago.
Young, batting at No 3 in place of the injured Kane Williamson, was more circumspect but equally as effective as England, and in particular Stuart Broad, threw everything at them.
The reality is Young was never going to be seriously considered for the Southampton match but there would have at least been a spirited debate had he scored big here and Ross Taylor continued his run of poor form.
That scenario was in play when the latter was adjudged leg before to James Anderson for a fairly harrowing 11 runs. He looked prepared to accept umpire Richard Illingworth’s decision until Young advised him to call for a review that had the ball missing the leg peg by some margin.
It seemed to jolt something in Taylor (46*) whose ugly duckling innings hadn’t yet blossomed into a swan by stumps, but it was getting there.
The first session was two hours of cricket nobody will write poems about, yet it was two enthralling hours of high-performance sport at its finest. It had a bit of everything: rollicking tail-end batting, muddled thinking, aggressive bowling and a healthy dose of manufactured controversy.
England started the day on 258-7 after Lawrence and Mark Wood successfully and too easily negotiated 10 overs of the second new ball late on day one. That pattern continued on the second morning as Matt Henry and Trent Boult in particular searched too hard for wickets.
The left-armer, returning from a layoff, went too full, too short, too full, in search of wickets and Wood peppered the boundaries.
Henry was better and deserved the wicket off Wood (41) when he chopped on, but real credit must be given to skipper Tom Latham who saw something worth persevering with Boult when all tangible evidence suggested a change was required.
Boult responded by cleaning up Broad and Anderson to finish with a confidence-boosting 4-85.
England’s 303 was at least 50 runs short of where they would have wanted to be after winning the toss and batting, but it looked plenty when Broad started in the sort of mood that has seen him rip through lineups, including New Zealand’s, in the past.
He caught Latham (six) stone-cold in front early but the real drama was when he had Conway fencing at one into the cordon.
Zak Crawley came up claiming the catch and Broad was convinced it had carried but Conway held his ground and umpire Richard Kettleborough was skeptical. He called for the third umpire and offered a “soft” signal of not out, much to Broad’s chagrin.
If Kettleborough had doubts, third umpire Michael Gough had none, saying replays “clearly” confirmed that the ball had touched the turf.
It looked like the right decision, though it didn’t impress the bowler nor some in the commentary cognoscenti who opened a curious debate as to whether grass, which the ball obviously brushed, constituted the “ground”.
That would have made it 32-2 just before lunch but instead Conway and Young gutted it out to the break at 43-1 after what had been an epic session.
The two hours between lunch and tea never scaled those heights but it was a mightily impressive display from Conway, in his second test, and Young in his third, who combatted a frisky England attack, cloud cover, floodlights, a replacement ball that started swinging wildly and an Edgbaston crowd baying for blood.
Joe Root dropped a simple chance at first slip to give Young a reprieve on seven, but apart from the odd play and miss, the pair looked like established veterans as their stand soared past 100.
Conway would not get to that figure himself, but his dismissal brought Taylor to the crease. In combination with the his Central Districts teammate, the 37-year-old great of the New Zealand game showed he’s still got a few runs left in his bat.