England’s long and arduous winter will end without tangible reward unless they can somehow eke 10 New Zealand wickets out of an unresponsive surface on the final day of the second Test.
Joe Root set the hosts a national-record target of 382 in four-and-a-half sessions to win and take the series 2-0 after he and Dawid Malan both contributed half-centuries as England reached 352 for nine declared, despite Colin de Grandhomme’s figures of 4-94.
Only 23 further overs were possible before bad autumnal light brought first spin at both ends and then an early close in mid-evening at Hagley Park, with the Kiwis on 42-0.
The best new-ball efforts of James Anderson and Stuart Broad came to nought under persistent cloud cover, although both beat the edge of Jeet Raval’s bat several times.
Broad also struck the opener a painful blow to his chest as he dropped his hands and played no shot to a well-directed short ball.
The nearest England came to a breakthrough was when James Vince failed to hold what would have been an outstanding catch, diving to his left at third slip, when Raval’s partner Tom Latham edged Anderson.
The best new-ball efforts of James Anderson and Stuart Broad came to nought under persistent cloud cover, although both beat the edge of Jeet Raval’s bat several times.David Clough
There was only the encouragement, and frustration, of further plays and misses before worsening conditions truncated England’s opportunity.
Their route to declaration was notable for de Grandhomme’s intervention - the first change bowler on either side to make any impact - and another ‘unconverted’ 50 from the England captain.
Root (54) took his fourth-wicket stand with Malan (53) to 97 before the latter’s unexpected departure to de Grandhomme.
New Zealand persisted with the old ball until the 88th over, perhaps because Tim Southee was feeling unwell but also doubtless to slow any process which might accelerate a contest they do not need to win - from 1-0 up after their landslide victory in Auckland last week.
It took two wickets in three balls, of both set batsmen, to change Kane Williamson’s mind.
Malan chipped de Grandhomme to midwicket, having just reached his half-century at a slightly quicker tempo than his captain from 94 balls, and then Root edged a drive at a wide one in the next over from Neil Wagner.
It would have been 282-7 if Marais Erasmus had detected a Jonny Bairstow edge behind off Trent Boult on two, or New Zealand had any reviews left.
Instead, after Ben Stokes had fallen to a Malan action replay off de Grandhomme and Stuart Broad chipped the same bowler to mid-on, Bairstow upped the ante effectively with the tail until his dismissal - caught on the hook at Wagner - brought Root’s declaration.
Light rain had been falling, and cloud cover was already static - raising the potential for wickets but also significant time lost to the elements.
Root had plenty to factor in, therefore, as he tries to break England’s duck at last since they first journeyed south for the start of the Ashes more than five months ago.