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  • England v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 3rd day

England in command against New Zealand

The Report by George Dobell
May 26, 2013
England 354 and 116 for 1 (Cook 88*) lead New Zealand 174 (Swann 4-42, Finn 3-36) by 296 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Nick Compton's failure was the only obvious downside of an otherwise quite perfect day for England © Getty Images
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If not, perhaps, quite a perfect day for England, but a day when several pieces of their pre-Ashes jigsaw fell into place with a satisfying click.

Most pertinently, this was a day when England proved their bowling attack had a Plan B. While it is routinely suggested that, when the ball does not swing, the England bowling attack looks toothless and one dimensional, here they showed that they have what it takes to damage opposition sides when there is no such help.

With James Anderson and Stuart Broad - the destroyers of New Zealand at Lord's - struggling to gain the same seam or swing movement, it was left to Graeme Swann and Steven Finn to find another way through the tourists' batting. With Finn generating impressive pace and maintaining a hostile line and length and Swann demonstrating beguiling drift and sharp turn, England ended the day having inked in their first choice bowling attack for the Ashes.

Swann cannot have the fondest memories of this ground. He had never previously taken a Test wicket here and, a year ago, was dropped for the second Test against South Africa. But in a spell of three wickets for one run in seven balls he not only dismantled a disappointingly fragile New Zealand middle-order but proved that he was back to his best after elbow surgery had forced him out of the Tests in New Zealand.

As so often before, Swann struck in his first over. Gaining a surprising amount of turn, Swann beat Dean Brownlie's somewhat loose stroke with one that turned through the gate to hit the top of off stump. Next over, having set-up Martin Guptill with some flat deliveries, Swann tossed one up, drew the batsman forward and again turned one through the gate to hit the top of off stump.

Two deliveries later, Kane Williamson was out too. Moving across his stumps to negate Swann much in the way demonstrated by Hashim Amla in 2012, Williamson was beaten by turn and struck on the pad. While Marais Erasmus turned down the appeal, England reviewed and were rewarded.

It was the first of two decisions overturned from England reviews in the session. While Tim Southee was originally given not out following a leg before appeal from Broad - the umpire quite reasonably unable to say whether ball had hit bat or pad first - reviews showed it had struck the pad first and was going on to hit leg stump.

Moments later Swann had Doug Bracewell taken at silly point, prodding forward to one that turned and took bat and pad, before Broad had Brendon McCullum, clearly struggling with a bad back after being forced back into service as wicketkeeper, caught behind as he poked at one that seamed in a little.

It left Swann with the best figures - 4 for 42 - by an England spinner in a Test in Leeds since John Emburey took 5 for 82 against Australia in 1985 and had New Zealand pondering over the wisdom of going into the game without a specialist spinner and with two left-arm seamers whose foot marks had provided rough for Swann to exploit.

But if Swann takes the plaudits, it was Finn who made the initial breakthrough. After New Zealand's openers had batted with fluency in reaching 55 without loss, Finn claimed the first three wickets in a sustained spell of hostile fast bowling.

After prompting an error from Peter Fulton, caught and bowled off the leading edge as he tried to work a ball that bounced more than he expected into the leg side, Finn persuaded Hamish Rutherford to push at one angled across him which resulted in a sliced edge to gully and then forced Ross Taylor to play-on. It was due reward for a wonderfully sustained spell of bowling where Finn had cramped Taylor for room, struck him twice on the body and finally provoked the false stroke.

New Zealand's last pair of Neil Wagner and Trent Boult thrashed 52 runs in 27 balls - Wagner thrashed four fours in an over off Broad before Boult thumped Swann for a four and two successive sixes in the next over - but when Anderson returned to end the innings, New Zealand had conceded a first innings lead of 180.

Perhaps surprisingly given the far from promising weather forecast, England decided not to enforce the follow-on - with day one washed out the follow-on target was 150-behind - and opted instead for another bat.

Alastair Cook, cutting and driving with freedom, was at his most fluent against an attack lacking Trent Boult, who was absent with a side strain. The England captain raced to his half-century off 63 balls and dominated an opening stand of 72 in 20 overs.

But the only obvious downside in the entire day for England was the failure of Nick Compton. He was clearly mindful of the vultures circling around him and laboured for 45 deliveries for his seven runs before falling to a bat-pad catch at short-leg. It is only three Tests since he registered back-to-back Test centuries, but it seems some have short memories.

Jonathan Trott found life little easier. Struggling to deal with the rough outside his off stump and some tight seam bowling, he managed only 11 off 69 deliveries, and, though he had helped Cook stretch the lead to 296 by stumps, England hardly forced home their advantage in the final 90 minutes. Still, it is England's policy - rightly or wrongly - to not allow the possibility of weather disruption to influence their game plan and, with nearly 200 overs left in the game, they remain in an overwhelmingly dominant position.

The day had started far better for New Zealand as Boult completed the second five-wicket haul of his Test career. England, resuming on 337 for 7, lost Matt Prior in the second over of the day, chasing an outswinger from Tim Southee and edging to first slip, before Steven Finn lost his off stump to an inswinger as he attempted a repeat of the crashing straight drive for four he had played the delivery before.

Three balls later, James Anderson offered a leading edge return catch to Boult and England's innings was over. They had added only 17 runs on the third day for the loss of three wickets and from the moment the second new ball was taken, England lost their last six wickets for 84 runs.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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