DUNEDIN: England were reeling at 81 for five at lunch on the second day of the opening Test against New Zealand on Thursday after Neil Wagner tore through the top order with a three-wicket haul.
The Black Caps skittled England’s vaunted batting line-up in the first session, leaving the tourists’ hopes resting on Jonathan Trott, unbeaten on 40, at the crease with Matt Prior, not out on one.
Wagner did the damage at Dunedin’s University Oval, claiming three for 38 after being brought in as a last-minute replacement for the injured Doug Bracewell.
New Zealand had won the toss and put England in to bat on Wednesday before the entire day’s play was abandoned due to bad weather.
When the team finally took the field Thursday, Tim Southee grabbed an early breakthrough for New Zealand, dismissing Nick Compton for a duck in the third over of the innings.
Compton, who also failed to fire in a warm-up match last week, bottom-edged the ball onto his off-stump after facing just four balls, increasing pressure on England to promote Joe Root up the order to open the batting with Alastair Cook.
The England captain was given a life in the 10th over when he chipped a Southee delivery to mid-wicket, only for debutant Bruce Martin to drop the catch.
But he was on his way for 10 in the next over after hitting Wagner to point, where another debutant, Hamish Rutherford, took the catch comfortably.
Wagner stuck again with his next delivery, trapping Kevin Pietersen lbw for a first-ball duck and leaving the stunned tourists 18-3.
Pietersen has not had much cricket in the lead-up to the Test series, being rested for England’s limited overs fixtures against New Zealand and posting meagre returns of 14 and eight in his only warm-up match.
Ian Bell and Trott dug in for a partnership of 46 before Bell fell for 24 trying to drive Wagner through mid-wicket, instead scooping the ball to Rutherford, who took the catch.
Root (four) departed just before lunch after tentatively swiping at a Trent Boult delivery and edging to Dean Brownlie in the slips.