Right, that’s me done. Time to hand over to Tim de Lisle who will guide you through New Zealand’s chase. Thanks for your emails and for following. Bye.
Interval reading: James Wallace set down with the effervescent Jeremy Coney earlier in the week, and chatted about all manner of stuff, including music, his regard for the 50-over game and 2019 and all that.
And readers who subscribe to The Spin newsletter will have got to read all that, and more, first. So why not sign up?
It’s hard to gauge how good a total that is, but given the pitch and some largely astute New Zealand bowling, it feels like a decent one. Four England batters made 50s, with two with points to prove (Livingstone and Malan) making the most emphatic of them. How will New Zealand fare as the night draws in, the dew drops and this infernal heat relents a tad? Go nowhere.
Talking of dew drops, I’ve just given myself an earworm:
50th over: England 291-6 (Woakes 4, Willey 21). England finish with a flourish. Southee bowls the last over, which begins with a scurried Willey single. An inside-edge along the ground from Woakes adds another before Willey clobbers a confident lofted on-drive to the ropes for four, followed by two more twos. And a good slice of late-innings batting from Willey ends in style when he belts Southee over the long-on boundary for SIX. England have a more than competitive total.
49th over: England 275-6 (Woakes 3, Willey 6). Woakes is initially slow to run a single inviting Henry to pick up and throw at the stumps and miss. Henry continues to bowl tightly though, befuddling Willey with a slower ball that he slashes at and misses. A hook for one by Willey ends a decent spell for Henry, who finishes with 0 for 45 from his 10 overs.
48th over: England 271-6 (Woakes 1, Willey 4). Southee drags New Zealand right back into it with two wickets. Livingstone’s valuable belligerent knock is ended when he holes out to Mitchell, bringing Chris Woakes to the middle. He hands Buttler the strike with a single off his first ball but Buttler squanders it by mistiming a slog and getting caught, but it was a crucial and excellent innings from the captain. New man Willey, another with plenty to prove, finds the gap with a confident pull for four to get off the mark.
And another! The birthday boy goes, having hardly had the strike of late, hoicking high in the air in desperation and Ferguson takes the skyer.
That handy time at the crease comes to an end for Livingstone, as he tries to belt Southee out of the ground but holes out to Mitchell at long-off.
47th over: England 265-4 (Buttler 71, Livingstone 52). Matt Henry comes back on at the river end and is carved to long-on for one by Livingstone first up. A hack to fine leg from Buttler follows to bring another single. They can’t fully get on top of Henry, who’s producing some good death bowling here. But Livingstone finally gets him away with the last ball of the over, finding the gap with a lofted off drive for four to complete a very timely half-century. He’s made full use of rare lenghty(ish) time at the crease.
46th over: England 257-4 (Buttler 69, Livingstone 46). Oh Lockie! Ferguson thinks he’s got Livingstone when the batter mis-times a pull straight down deep square leg’s throat … but the bowler’s only gone and over-stepped. The free hit is clattered away on the legside and they run two courtesy of a Phillips fumble at deep midwicket. Buttler, who’s been reduced to an anchor role these past few overs, scoops for one and Livingstone gets two more with a pull in front of square. A single completes a productive over for England.
45th over: England 248-4 (Buttler 68, Livingstone 40). Jamieson is hooked from the attack and replaced by Southee, who begins his eighth over with four dot balls at Livingstone, giving him little room and mixing up his lengths and pace adeptly before Livingstone finally gets some joy, cracking back of square on the off for four and he adds another single to complete the over.
44th over: England 243-4 (Buttler 68, Livingstone 35). After that Jamieson over, England have a tasty total in their sights. Ferguson attempts to rein it in with a tighter over, conceding only three singles. He’s definitely been the pick of New Zealand’s quicks.
43rd over: England 240-4 (Buttler 67, Livingstone 33). At last, some carnage. A combination of fast outfield and slow pitch is making twos and threes hard to come by, so Livingstone cuts out the middle man against Jamieson, who’s been a bit off-key today and sends down a wide before the onslaught begins when Livingstone sends his slower ball sailing over backward square leg for SIX. The next one is aimed firmly at the Taff, and might even have got there – straight over the bowler’s head for SIX MORE. Can he change it? No, he goes short and slower next and Livingstone pulls over deep midwicket for ANOTHER SIX.
42nd over: England 218-4 (Buttler 66, Livingstone 13). Ravindra’s final overhas an inauspicious beginning, as Buttler carts him over long-on for SIX, but the rest of it is pretty controlled, yielding two singles. Ravindra finishes with fine figures of three for 48.
41st over: England 210-4 (Buttler 59, Livingstone 12). Jamieson, who still has up to five overs to bowl, returns at the river end and after a couple of singles, Livingstone opens up, advances and wellies one to the long-on boundary for four through sheer power. A couple more singles follow.
40th over: England 202-4 (Buttler 57, Livingstone 6). Ravindra, in his ninth over, continues to provide control and variety, as a couple more singles take England to 200. As has been pointed out in comms, this is a good test of batting in tricky conditions for England, as there’s bound to be some pitches like this in India.
39th over: England 198-4 (Buttler 55, Livingstone 4). A risky/well-run two adds to Livingstone’s total, though a more accurate throw might have done for him. Buttler then picks up another boundary with a slashed-hard edge for four through the vacant slip area. Eight from a mixed Southee over.
38th over: England 190-4 (Buttler 50, Livingstone 1). Ravindra’s return reaps swift reward, with Stokes’s wicket two balls after he’d been clobbered for six. A chance for Liam Livingstone to stake his World Cup claim. He’s off the mark second ball with a single.
Ravindra returns to bring a change of pace and Stokes provides one by hoiking a short one over the long square-leg boundary for SIX to bring up his own half-century. But two balls later, he’s gone, smacking straight to extra-cover where Nicholls takes a sharp, smart catch.
37th over: England 183-3 (Stokes 46, Buttler 50). Buttler brings up his more-than-a-run-a-ball 50 with a cut to extra cover that is well fielded but enables the batters to run through for one, then Stokes charges Southee but is deceived by the length and flat bats it weirdly past mid-off for two. Is he about to go through the gears? There’s a look of more urgency about him now. And Buttler has accumulated splendidly.
36th over: England 179-3 (Stokes 43, Buttler 49). Buttler creams a lovely cover-drive from Ferguson away for four. A couple more singles ensue.
“This Buttler and Stokes partnership is reminding me somewhat of the 2019 WC final,” says Brian Withington, “Same opposition, similar pitch and Buttler more fluent than a slightly struggling but determined Stokes. Apparently Jos said afterwards in the afterglow of the hard-earned victory that the only ball Ben middled all day was the fortuitous deflection for four overthrows. Obviously NZ chasing today and I suspect they may blast the first PP and then look to cruise the next one.”
England had a better bowling attack out that day mind, and that mattered.
35th over: England 173-3 (Stokes 42, Buttler 44). Buttler replaces his bat, the previous one presumably copping some damage from that toe-ender, as Southee returns to the attack and again bamboozles Stokes for pace (or lack of) and length outside off; he wafts and misses. He cracks the next ball past backward point for a single before Buttler pulls to the square leg boundary for only his third four. Stokes still has to deal in singles though – he has 25 of them – but seven from the over will do for England.
34th over: England 166-3 (Stokes 40, Buttler 39). A big let-off for Buttler as Ferguson’s delivery plugs in the pitch, forcing the England captain to toe-end it in the air and just short of the bowler. Stokes is similarly discomforted by a slow short ball that he manages to bunt away behind square on the off. Four singlse from the over. This really doesn’t look a particularly easy surface to bat on.
33rd over: England 162-3 (Stokes 38, Buttler 37). Stokes tries to charge Henry again, but just clatters the ball towards his own feet and it’s another dot ball. But it’s worth advancing sometimes just to give the bowler something to think about. Stokes and Buttler trade another couple of singles before – Lord be praised – an actual boundary, as Buttler’s forceful hook shot is fumbled over the ropes by the man at wide fine leg.
And that’s drinks.
32nd over: England 155-3 (Stokes 37, Buttler 31). Ferguson returns at the Cathedral Road end, and Buttler on-drives him for one first off. It brings up a somewhat sedate 50 partnership. Stokes pulls another shorter ball for one but it’s still not quite coming on to the bat so England have to get ‘em in ones for the moment. They’re faster than this in Tests, but New Zealand are doing a fine containment job mind.
31st over: England 150-3 (Stokes 35, Buttler 28). Henry mixes his lengths up on this variable pitch and tempts Stokes into a mis-timed pull that goes for one when it could have been four. Three singles from the over brings up the 150, and a fairly modest ripple of applause.
“I can recall the John Player League and before that, Ted Dexter’s International Cavaliers, all televised live on the BBC,” trills John Starbuck, pulling up a chair by the fireside and lighting up his pipe. “Does that make me great-grandad age? I’m already a great-uncle several times over so it can’t be long now.”
30th over: England 147-3 (Stokes 34, Buttler 26). Phillips continues to keep it tight, though is not really causing either batter any discomfort, and the longer this slow-burn partnership continues the better for England and the worse for the Black Caps. Nonetheless, an over that yields only three runs, at this stage, is not to be sniffed at.
29th over: England 144-3 (Stokes 33, Buttler 24). Matt Henry returns from the river end (a change of ends from where his fine first spell was delivered). Stokes tries to charge him but only finds the man at mid-on. Five singles keep the strike rotated and the scoreboard whirring but England can’t find many gaps at the moment.
28th over: England 139-3 (Stokes 31, Buttler 21). Phillips continues the all-spin diet, and the old-school middle-overs meandering goes on, with nudges and pushes for one aplenty. All very Benson & Hedges Cup (ask yer grandad).
27th over: England 135-3 (Stokes 29, Buttler 19). These two batters staying together now feels like a significant determinant of how this match goes. They’re not on top particularly, but they’re there, waiting. Ravindra’s seventh over on the spin is as parsimonious as most of his others have been, and four singles are all it concedes.
26th over: England 131-3 (Stokes 27, Buttler 17). Phillips may not be a front-line spinner but he’s not offering many freebies, so Stokes and Buttler have to work the gaps and knacker themselves out in the heat in pursuit of singles. And, having typed that, Phillips offers a freebie to Stokes, short and sitting up, and clubbed to the deep midwicket boundary.
25th over: England 123-3 (Stokes 21, Buttler 15). Stokes swats Ravindra behind square on the legside for one, Buttler adds another before Stokes’s attempted clattering straight drive to the boundary is thwarted by fine fielding. Buttler ends the over with a risky four, uppish and close to the man at midwicket but he gets away with it. England needed that, though New Zealand might be the happier at the halfway stage.
24th over: England 114-3 (Stokes 18, Buttler 9). A new bowler, Glenn Phillips, comes on to show us his off-breaks, which tie up the left-handed Stokes nicely for four dot balls before he bunts one to long-off for a single. Should I dignify the Hundred by describing this as Phillips’ home ground? I’m not sure if I should, but there, I have. It’s a good start anyway.
23rd over: England 113-3 (Stokes 17, Buttler 9). At last, a bit of tap, as Buttler gets hold of a fuller ball from Ravindra and drives it in that effortless way of his in the direction of the Taff for SIX. Eight from the over takes some of the pressure off.
22nd over: England 105-3 (Stokes 16, Buttler 2). Jamieson continues, cramping up Stokes by varying his pace, and I begin to wonder whether saying 300 is possible was one of my more astute predictions. England’s two most explosive hitters of a cricket ball are currently having to make do and mend with the odd one or two.
21st over: England 103-3 (Stokes 15, Buttler 1). It remains brutally hot out there, and Sofia Gardens is one of the most punitively exposed international venues in these lands, with little in the way of cover. And the roasting spectators have another wicket to ponder when Root’s ponderous innings is ended, bringing the white-ball captain out to join the red-ball one. Buttler’s off the mark straight away with a single but Stokes decides to be cautious for the rest of the over.
“Bad news for Michael White,” laments Tom Rebbitt, “the commentary is on Sports Extra not TMS & there’s no link on the BBC website to the coverage. The BBC Sounds app doesn’t have Sports Extra over here either, so I think Michael will have to make do with your coverage. Or do as my Dad (also in Sicily) is doing and find some bizarre re-enaction on YouTube.