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Cricket news - Curran strikes hand England advantage

Sam Curran picked up the crucial wicket of Kane Williamson in the final session of Day 2

Sam Curran picked up the crucial wicket of Kane Williamson (51) in the final session of Day 2 to hand England the upper hand at stumps in the first Test in Bay Oval. New Zealand were 144/4, behind by 209 at the close of play.

As the final session commenced, England would have hoped to make further inroads. However, Williamson and Jeet Raval collected runs in a diet of singles and twos with the occasional boundary to keep the scorecard ticking over. Raval came under a bit of pressure while facing Jack Leach and also survived a close LBW shot, but the duo seemed set to share a sizeable alliance.

Just that Raval seemed to be in a mood to crack the slog sweep against Leach. In the 23rd over, he connected one that scurried away to the midwicket fence, only to get carried away and lose his wicket with another attempted slog sweep the very next ball. Leach also deserved his share of the credit for tossing it up and inducing the southpaw to go for the shot. Ross Taylor, who replaced Raval, was intent on pulling Jofra Archer and Stokes's short ball. Eventually, that stroke proved to be his downfall as he pulled Stokes straight to the fielder stationed at deep square leg.

Despite his team-mates getting out to soft dismissals, Williamson looked serene at the crease. England needed some magic and it was Curran who provided it by bowling a rip-snorter to remove the New Zealand mainstay. He pounded one on a short of a length that might have also hit a crack. The ball then climbed awkwardly on Williamson, who could only glove it to Stokes in the slip cordon. At the fag end of the day, Archer bowled a snorter of a short ball that followed Henry Nicholls all the way from round the wicket to smack him on the back of the helmet. Thankfully for Nicholls and New Zealand, he was able to continue, and along with BJ Watling shepherded the hosts to stumps.

Earlier, despite Tim Southee picking up three wickets in quick succession in the morning session, the tourists ended up with 353. At the start of the day, England and Ben Stokes began on a confident note, with the charismatic all-rounder driving Colin de Grandhomme down the ground to collect a boundary. However, there was a scare in de Grandhomme's next over for Stokes's batting partner, Ollie Pope. The promising batsman from Surrey was adjudged LBW, with Pope shuffling across towards the off-stump. He then took the review and the ball-tracker suggested it would have missed the leg-stump. After the narrow escape, Pope grew in confidence by pulling Trent Boult a couple of times to the boundary hoardings. Stokes also joined in the act by steering Southee past the gully fielder.

New Zealand needed a spark of inspiration from somewhere, and it came via Ross Taylor' stunning grab in the slip cordon to send Stokes back to the hut for 91. Stokes's wicket opened up the floodgates for Southee to run through the batting order by picking up the wickets of Pope, Curran and Archer. Fortunately for the visiting side, Buttler played with a calm head on his shoulders to put England back on track. The wicketkeeper-batsman also found an able ally in Leach as the pair shared a 52-run association.

After the Lunch break, Buttler fell in search of quick runs while Neil Wagner dismissed Stuart Broad to wrap up the innings. England, though, kept their noses in front with Curran removing Tom Latham LBW. Incidentally, the HotSpot indicated there was an edge, but the southpaw decided to not opt for the review.

With the wicket offering some variable bounce, England would hope to get a healthy first innings lead. On the other hand, the hosts need the pair of Nicholls and Watling to share an alliance of substance.

Brief scores: England 353 (Ben Stokes 91, Joe Denly 74; Tim Southee 4-88, Colin de Grandhomme 2-41) lead New Zealand 144/4 (Kane Williamson 51; Sam Curran 2-28) by 209 runs.

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