A gritty BJ Watling, New Zealand’s go-to man when the chips are down, produced an unbeaten 119 to put the Black Caps ahead of England in the first innings of the opening Test on Saturday.
After rescuing his country as he has done many times in the past, Watling was at a loss to explain his ability to produce his best when New Zealand are in trouble.
“It just kind of happens” he offered at stumps on day three in Mount Maunganui, after guiding the Kiwis to 394 for six to lead England by 41.
He toiled under a blazing sun for almost seven hours to notch his eighth Test century and pull New Zealand up from a precarious 197 for five.
Much of Watling’s innings-saving mission was in partnership with Colin de Grandhomme in a 119-run stand for the sixth wicket and followed by an unbroken 78 with Mitchell Santner, who was 31 not out at stumps.
When de Grandhomme joined Watling after the dismissal of Henry Nicholls for 41 before lunch, New Zealand’s top five were out and they were still 156 runs behind England’s 353.
De Grandhomme, meanwhile, characteristically punished anything loose -- with a six and seven fours as he raced to 65.
SCORES IN BRIEF
England: First innings 353
New Zealand: First innings (Williamson 51, Watling 119 not out, de Grandhomme 65; Curran 2-74, Stokes 2-37)