England’s batting coach Graham Thorpe believes that the Three Lions did exceptionally well to pull things back on Day 2, and reckons that the hosts could take control by batting throughout the third day. Thorpe further heaped praise on Rory Burns, who struck a fine fifty on Day 2.
Resuming Day 2 on 246/3, the Kiwis raced off to 288/3 in no time and looked primed to post a 500-ish total. However, the game turned on its head post the dismissal of Henry Nicholls as New Zealand endured a mini collapse to get reduced to 338/9. A frustrating final wicket partnership between Devon Conway and Neil Wagner ensued, but the Kiwis, still, were bowled out for just 378, a total at least 75 lower than what they would have wanted.
England, in response, were in trouble immediately as both Crawley and Sibley perished for single-digit scores within the first seven overs, but an exceptional display from the experienced duo of Rory Burns and Joe Root ensured that the hosts got to stumps unscathed, ending the day on 111/2.
England’s batting coach, Graham Thorpe, expressed pleasure over the Three Lions’ performance and claimed that the hosts could very well get on top should they bat throughout Day 3.
“The game could have potentially gotten away from us, but we’ve now given ourselves a chance. If we can bat well throughout tomorrow, then we’ll be in a position where hopefully pressure will be back on New Zealand. But we still have a lot of hard work to do with the bat,” Thorpe said in the press conference at the end of Day 2.
Skipper Root looked unfazed by the pressure asserted by the Kiwi bowlers, but the star performer of the day for England was Rory Burns. Returning to the side after being dropped for the final two Tests against India, Burns struck a counter-attacking fifty that included 8 boundaries, and handled the Wagner threat nonchalantly. The southpaw struck his seventh consecutive first-class fifty, and looked indomitable at the home of cricket.
Thorpe was full of praise for Burns, who he said displayed incredible character.
“I’ve known Rory for a very long time, since when he was a young boy at Surrey, and I know he’s got a really good character. And like with all our players, no matter how many games they’re playing, we know some of them are early-ish in their Test careers. But we want them to keep improving and keep making good decisions when they’re at the crease. Really pleased for Rory. For him we hope he kicks on and gets a big score for us.”
There was a moment of huge concern for England on Day 2 as skipper Root was struck on his fingers by a Colin de Grandhomme snorter. Root had suffered a blow in training, ahead of the game, and incidentally got struck on the same finger by the Kiwi all-rounder. Thorpe, however, revealed that Root was alright, and joked that the England skipper was ‘lucky’ that it was CDG who bowled the delivery.
“It’s pretty tough, Joe’s finger. Cause I’ve seen them get whacked quite a few times in practice and everything. Maybe we were lucky that it was Colin de Grandhomme that hit him today. Nothing against CDG as a bowler, but his pace isn’t quite what it is of the others. But Joe’s alright.”
The spotlight, on Thursday, was on Ollie Robinson for the wrong reasons, but the debutant did not let the off-field controversy affect his on-field performance. The 27-year-old bowled metronomic lines and lengths once again on Day 2 and finished with figures of 4/75 to cap off an impressive debut. Thorpe heaped praise on the youngster, who he said dealt with a ‘tough day’ very maturely.
"It was a tough day for him yesterday. He had to say sorry to the dressing room and he had to say sorry to the world about what he did. So, from that perspective it's very hard for him. But he knows he made mistakes and that's why he had to make those apologies,” Thorpe said of Robinson.
"But in our dressing room, we had to support him as well. And we were really pleased, actually, that he showed good character. He had to be pretty resilient because of what he's done. It's not easy to go back out onto the stage and perform and I thought his level of performance was exceptional in that first innings."