Great going by Watling and Grandhomme.
England fought fire with fire and wreaked havoc with the new ball at Christchurch, chipping five Kiwi wickets inside 50 runs. After Jonny Bairstow’s fighting hundred, Stuart Broad hogged all the headlines for his skilful bowling. At Eden Park, New Zealand cleaned England up for a paltry 58 in the first innings and were on the brink of getting a taste of their own medicine when they were precariously placed at 36 for 5 at Christchurch. But Colin de Grandhomme and BJ Watling revived New Zealand’s innings with a determined partnership of 142 runs.
England had a competitive total on the board, the pitch certainly had something for the seamers. Stuart Broad reaped fruitful results for pitching the ball up and steered England to a commanding position with the new ball. Watling walked out to bat when New Zealand lost their fourth wicket in Henry Nicholls with just 17 runs on the board. The pumped English bowlers were tightening the noose around New Zealand. They were in desperate need of a partnership and needed someone to counter-attack and break the shackles.
There was humungous pressure; things went from bad to worse when James Anderson removed skipper Kane Williamson. Colin de Grandhomme took guard and the duo had a massive task in hand. Watling not only had to bail the team out of this precarious situation but also justify his selection.
For a number six and number seven batsmen, it requires enough guts to dish out the attacking display. When Colin came out to join Watling, he was still assessing the situation – it was not expected from the hosts who nailed the visitors a few weeks back. Now, they discovered themselves in England’s position in the first Test and could also end up their first innings like them. But the Garndhomme and Watling were in no mood the enjoy the wolf-dance of Broad and Anderson.
Mark Wood’s first delivery in 21st over was smacked for four and it was followed by two more boundaries. Grandhomme made his intentions clear. He was in no mood to hang around and invite the pressure to suck him. But he decided to take the attack back to England.
In the 28th over, Anderson was attacked in a controlled manner. He picked a back of a length delivery very well and dispatched it four. The fifth delivery passed the slip fielder and went for four. Well, fortune favours the brave indeed!
Watling was playing the role of a sheet anchor and only flexed his muscles when it was required but otherwise, he kept one end intact so that Grandhomme can play with an assurance. Surely, there is no need for two guns to blaze.
Watling was tested by Wood in a couple of overs but against the debutante Leach, he was in a destructive mood. A massive six over midwicket brought his half-century while a single against the same bowler brought up Gandhomme’s third Test fifty.
The partnership of 142 runs for sixth wicket was broken, but the duo had given the hosts a huge boost to continue their fight back on third day.
Watling has a knack for getting himself involved in big partnerships. His involvement in three of New Zealand’s four biggest sixth-wicket Test stands corroborate the belief. He knows the art of building partnerships and convert his good starts into substantial scores well. Although this partnership of 142 may not look big in terms of numbers, but was equally important as compared to others.
Watling’s gritty performance saw his counter-part Stuart Broad speak highly of him. Broad was quoted in a report by nzherald.co.nz, “He’s always been a gritty determined strong character type of player, who never gives it away cheaply. He seems a player New Zealand want in the battle.”
A wicketkeeper-batsman plays a key role in a Test line-up. After a hectic day on the field, he has to garner those crucial runs in the lower middle-order. Watling confronted 196 deliveries for his uneaten 77 and made the English bowlers toil. Despite the 142-run stand between Watling and Grandhomme, New Zealand are still in a delicate situation and would want to get close to England’s total. Watling has a lot of work to do when play resumes on Day 3. He has done all the hard work and would be frustrating if he fails to belt a century.
Meanwhile, since his journey in Test cricket, Gandhomme has been proving his worth time and again as an all-rounder. If needed, he can deliver the goods with the ball and as a number seven batsman, he has been absolutely superb over the years. Gandhomme, definitely adds a lot of value.
As of now, wicketkeepers from both the sides have made the utmost difference to their side’s fortune in this Test and played the crucial knocks. The stage for a thrilling Day is all set as England will give it all to end the tour on a winning note and square the two-match series. New Zealand have some batting left and it will be interesting to see how Watling anchors this innings and supports the tail.