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….as Matt Henry & Neil Wagner hurry tourists towards victory
(BBC SPORT) England face defeat in the series decider against New Zealand after another insipid batting performance on the third day of the second Test.
Joe Root’s side crumbled to 112-9 under glorious sunshine at Edgbaston, only 37 runs ahead.
England had battled their way back into the contest on an entertaining day, taking the final seven New Zealand wickets for 96 runs to dismiss them for 388.
Faced with a first-innings deficit of 85, the hosts had the opportunity to set a challenging fourth-innings chase, only for their top order to disintegrate.
In the face of some superb New Zealand bowling, England found themselves 30-3 and 76-7, and eventually needed a stand of 44 between Olly Stone and Mark Wood to drag the game into a fourth day.
Still, barring something utterly remarkable on Sunday, England will go down to their first home series defeat in seven years.
Dismal England spiral towards defeat
This was another abject performance by England’s callow batting line-up, one that undid the good work of a resurgence that came earlier in the day.
The game looked to be hurrying away from England in an action-packed morning session when New Zealand runs flowed and catches were dropped, only for England’s seamers – led by the excellent Stuart Broad – to fight back.
However, the evening capitulation that followed evoked memories of the dismal tour of India this year and leaves questions surrounding the future of the majority of England’s top order.
With questionable techniques and low reserves of confidence, they were unable to handle the relentless New Zealand attack on a pitch holding no demons.
By the end, England were again relying on their bowlers, this time to eke out enough runs to avoid an innings defeat.
England crumble yet again
The Edgbaston crowd had not finished singing Jerusalem when the England slide began, Rory Burns loosely driving at Matt Henry’s second ball of the innings to be caught at second slip.
With Henry holding a full length and nipping the ball, Dom Sibley edged to third slip before Zak Crawley was pinned by one that came back.
The bustling Neil Wagner took over, first trapping Ollie Pope on the crease for 23, then enticing Dan Lawrence into an edge behind.
In his third Test innings, James Bracey was cheered when he registered his first run, only to be bowled around his legs sweeping at the left-arm spin of Ajaz Patel.
Captain Root dropped anchor in defiance, until even he nicked a cut at Patel to fall for 11 off 61 balls.
An example in defence came from Stone, while Wood swiped his way to 29 before he top-edged Wagner. There was still time for Broad to be bowled by Trent Boult.
Superb New Zealand surge towards victory
New Zealand had the better of the drawn first Test and, despite making six changes for the second, have given England a lesson in correct batting, length bowling and efficient catching.
From 229-3 overnight, they attacked the second new ball, Ross Taylor moving from 46 to 80 with some glorious drives.
He was dropped on 68 by diving sub fielder Sam Billings at long leg then, in the same over Taylor edged Stone to Bracey, the Gloucestershire wicketkeeper’s difficult start to life in Test cricket continued when he put down Blundell.
Wood hit Henry Nicholls on the head, then had him caught down the leg side from the next ball, with England then running through the lower order after lunch.
Broad was the pick, ending with 4-48. When he trapped Patel lbw to end a chaotic last-wicket stand of 27 with Boult, there was genuine optimism England could create a competitive contest.
It evaporated almost as soon as they began batting.
‘England have a fragile batting line-up’- what they said
Former England captain Alastair Cook on BBC Test Match Special: “It’s bitterly disappointing. England haven’t been good enough.
“They have a fragile batting line-up – you always watch them thinking that if they lose one wicket then they could easily lose two, three or four.
“When the pressure comes on, whether it’s inexperience or the players just aren’t good enough, they can’t withstand the opposition’s bowling.
“New Zealand’s batters just showed the resilience that England’s don’t have.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “New Zealand play long periods of disciplined Test match cricket, with bat and ball, and you’ve got to be mentally very good and technically very strong to play against a side like New Zealand. At the minute England don’t have either.”
England head coach Chris Silverwood: “If we want to be sat where New Zealand are at the moment, we need to improve, but we always knew it would be a tough ask against a top team.
“It’s been a great opportunity for some of the younger lads to come in and stamp their mark, and some of them will be disappointed they haven’t been able to do that.”