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Two late wickets gave England the initiative after the second day of four versus a New Zealand XI at Queenstown.
Jonathan Trott’s occasional seam bowling snared half-centurion Dean Brownlie and Graeme Swann’s second wicket of the day accounted for Jimmy Neesham to leave the hosts 224 for six at stumps in reply to 426 all out.
The New Zealand XI’s total was built on an assured 90 from opening batsman Hamish Rutherford, who put himself on course for a Test debut next week.
On a day when there was less assistance for seamers than before, Ian Bell added 31 to his overnight 127 as the tourists topped up yesterday’s 357 for seven at the Queenstown Events Centre.
Having batted for today’s first hour, England could not break through before lunch but Swann struck immediately afterwards.
However, Rutherford batted until well into the evening session – hitting 13 fours and a six from 149 balls – and then Brownlie, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand of 81, continued to frustrate the tourists.
Rutherford was already the front-runner to partner Peter Fulton at the top of the order in the first Test, and all the more so after Tom Latham fell as their opening stand of 56 was broken when Swann had him moving across his stumps and lbw pushing to leg.
Carl Cachopa then began with intent, down the wicket to the fourth ball he faced and hitting a six high over long-on off Swann.
That was the number three’s only scoring shot, though, before the impressive Stuart Broad found some extra bounce and had him fencing low to second slip – where Swann took a neat catch.
Neil Broom also started confidently but was run out by a direct hit from Kevin Pietersen at point after being called through for a single by Rutherford.
By then, the opener had completed his fifty, prefaced a ball earlier with his only six, again off Swann over long-on.
He was joined by Test regular Brownlie as England were tested under near cloudless skies.
Yesterday, the new ball, especially, had swung and occasionally gone off the seam for the hosts; today, batting conditions appeared ever more straightforward.
Broad switched tactics after tea to try to discomfort Rutherford with some short balls.
However, it was Chris Woakes who finally did the trick when a lack of decisive foot movement perhaps undid Rutherford, who was bowled by a delivery which kept a little low.
Brownlie was not for shifting, though, on his way to and beyond a convincing 112-ball half-century – until he was caught behind down the leg side for 63 in the day’s penultimate off Trott.
Then when Swann doubled up by having Neesham lbw for nought with what became the final ball of the day, England were on top.
The tourists had added another 69 for their last three wickets this morning, Bell finishing with 23 fours from 233 balls after Broad and Swann made 14 and 27 respectively, the latter from just 17 deliveries with six fours.
For their opponents, Neesham and Neil Wagner took four wickets each – and substitute fielder Michael Rae had three catches, the last one when Bell mistimed an attempted hit over the top and was well held at deep mid-off.
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