Stuart Broad described the opening hour and a half of the third day of the opening Test, in which England broke the 195-run partnership between Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell and ripped through New Zealand’s lower order, as “absolute dreamworld – couldn’t have done any better” – and his side know that should they start the fourth day in similar style it will almost certainly end in victory.
England stand 61 runs from securing a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, with five wickets in hand, a second new ball still 15 overs away and Joe Root, unbeaten on 77, once again in compelling form. “It would cap off a fantastic Test match,” Broad said. “It’s up to us as a group of players to do everything we can to get over the line, and it would be very special. I’ve got a really good feeling about tomorrow.”
A single Broad over transformed England’s chances in the game, with Mitchell, Colin de Grandhomme and Kyle Jamieson dismissed off successive deliveries as from 251 for four the tourists were eventually bowled out for 285. “It was huge. We knew we had to strike with the new ball because the Test match was riding on it,” Broad said.
But the 35-year-old admitted he had “absolutely no idea” what was happening as De Grandhomme was run out by Ollie Pope’s direct hit, while the bowler was facing the umpire performing “one of the worst appeals ever”.
Having since seen replays of the incident, he said it was evidence of a team transformed. “I don’t know what’s changed but I think our accuracy with our throwing in the field and our fielding in general has been outstanding, and it just shows what a group of players can do with an attacking mindset in the field,” he said. “Because that nicked us a wicket, and it shows how crucial that sort of thing is in Test cricket.”
Broad also missed one of the day’s other crucial moments, also involving De Grandhomme, who bowled Ben Stokes with what turned out to be a front-foot no ball while the England captain – who went on to score a half-century – was on one. “There was big energy. I can’t play that down,” Broad said. “Of course that gives the whole changing room a lift. We’ve been on the flipside of that a few times over the last couple of years, and it does hurt.”
With the morning sessions on the three days so far played in this Test featuring six, six and seven wickets, England know they remain some way from the finish line. “It’s great to come in tomorrow knowing either team could win,” Broad said. “In the changing room you’re constantly saying: ‘It’s a big hour, this one.’ Tomorrow, that first hour, with Rooty and Foakesy [Ben Foakes] out there is going to be crucial.”
New Zealand may be marginal underdogs but they know they are close to exposing the more ragged extremes of England’s tail. Mitchell said: “Hopefully we can show up tomorrow and it’ll zip around as it has the last three mornings and we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win a Test match. We know we are literally one wicket away from getting into their bowlers so for us it’s just showing up with a smile on our face and a lot of energy and we’ll see what happens.”