New Zealand targeted the wicket of “freak” Ben Stokes on Thursday as they battle to get back into the first Test against England at Mount Maunganui.
The honours were even when the New Zealand-born Stokes went to the middle just before tea on day one with England 120 for three.
But by stumps, with Stokes in imperious form, the score had doubled and England will resume on Friday on 241 for four, with the 28-year-old all-rounder unbeaten on 67.
“He’s a special talent. He’s a bit of a freak at times,” New Zealand short-ball specialist Neil Wagner said after Stokes clubbed his bouncers four times to the boundary.
“Everyone wants to get him out because you know what an important wicket it is... but that’s my thing, we always try and strive to get the good players out.”
Stokes has tormented New Zealand this year after he played a key role in England’s nail-biting victory on boundary countback in the 50-over World Cup final in July.
As well as dispatching Wagner’s short stuff, he also showed a liking for the fuller delivery when he took four boundaries off successive balls from Trent Boult, including one that burst through the hands of the usually reliable Ross Taylor at first slip.
It was a drop that frustrated the New Zealanders who had earlier seen opener Rory Burns survive three chances including a waist-high edge that went between Taylor and Tom Latham in the slip cordon.
Stokes and Joe Denly (74) put on 83 for the fourth wicket to lift England after they had slowly accumulated runs through the first two sessions.
SCORES IN BRIEF
ENGLAND: 241 for 4 (Burns c Watling 52, Sibley 22, Denly 74, Stokes 67 not out; De Grandhomme 2-28)