England bowlers toil: Archer fires, Curran draws a blank
The two surfaces used at the Cobham Oval for England’s warm-up matches this week have offered little encouragement and, as a consequence, the tourists’ attack have been forced to work hard for their reward.
Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer each took two wickets against a New Zealand A side containing nine players with international experience, while there was one apiece for Stuart Broad and Jack Leach.
But Sam Curran took none for 53 on the day he was selected ahead of Chris Woakes as England fielded what is expected to be their XI to face the Black Caps next Thursday, fitness permitting.
It is anticipated conditions at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui will be similarly batsman-friendly to what they have faced here, where a costly drop in the cordon from Dom Sibley reprieved Glenn Phillips on 27.
Phillips then withstood a hostile barrage from Archer after lunch to amass 116, while there were half-centuries from opener Hamish Rutherford and Tom Blundell before the hosts declared on 302 for six.
England ended the day on 26 for one, Rory Burns the batsman out after carelessly slapping to point in the penultimate over of the day.
There was a concern about Joe Root as he walked gingerly off the field after diving to prevent a boundary but he later returned, with England confirming he had jarred his left hip but was fine.
The England captain had lost the toss as his side were invited to field first in a fixture that carries first-class status, where Joe Denly returned from an ankle injury that ruled him out of the T20 series.
Broad made the breakthrough in his fifth over as Rachin Ravindra was stuck on the crease and pinned on the front pad, with the England seamer giving only the most casual glance behind in his appeal before the umpire obliged.
New batsman Phillips needed 11 balls to get off the mark but settled into his stride with back-to-back fours off Curran, introduced early after Archer had bowled only three overs.
Phillips, though, was given a life when Stokes induced the edge and Sibley dropped a straightforward chance at second slip, and the 22-year-old batsman and Rutherford profited thereafter.
Rutherford had advanced to 59 but a 107-run stand was brought to an end in tame fashion when he was strangled down the leg-side by Archer, who livened up proceedings with a bumper barrage shortly after Phillips had passed fifty.
The batsman, who has played 11 Twenty20s for the Kiwis, was twice floored as he took evasive action in-between being clattered on the forearm, but he was still there at the end of Archer’s seven-over spell.
Stokes, who conceded 64 from his 10 overs, profited from Archer’s toil with two wickets in the space of five balls as Tim Seifert chipped to cover before Jimmy Neesham flashed at a lifter but succeeded in only edging behind.
The hosts had slipped from 124 for one to 167 for four but Phillips ensured there was no collapse, reaching three figures by hooking Curran fine for his 12th four before holing out off Jack Leach.
Blundell contributed 60 as England continued to struggle before a sprawling catch off Burns at midwicket ended his innings, the ball after he had been caught behind off an Archer no-ball.
Blundell, captaining the side and the only member to be included in New Zealand’s 15-man squad to take on England, promptly retired the innings, leaving Burns and Sibley to face the final 10 overs of the day.
Burns’s dismissal led to Leach being brought in as nightwatchman as he and Sibley saw out the remaining nine balls.
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