WELLINGTON, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Joe Denly and Ben Stokes were digging in to try and save England from defeat as they took their side to 98-4 at lunch on the fifth day of the first test against New Zealand at Bay Oval on Monday.
Denly, who had resumed on seven, had moved slowly to 21, while Stokes was on 13 after he had replaced England Captain Joe Root (11) about an hour into the final day’s play in Mt. Maunganui.
England were still 164 runs from making New Zealand bat again after the hosts declared their first innings on 615-9 late on Sunday.
The tourists had been reduced to 55-3 after left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner took three quick wickets in the final 30 minutes of play on Sunday, including that of nightwatchman Jack Leach in the final over of the day.
Root joined Denly when play resumed on Monday and was content to try and bat time to save the match.
He lasted almost an hour and faced 51 deliveries before he steered a short delivery from Colin de Grandhomme to Tom Latham at gully to leave England 69-4 and in serious trouble.
The normally aggressive Stokes, however, took his cue from his batting partner and took 25 balls to get off the mark, hitting a four from Santner with a punch through the covers.
While the pitch is still playing relatively easily, there is some variation in bounce and Santner is extracting turn, especially out of the footmarks, which could be crucial in the final two sessions.
The second match of the two-test series is at Seddon Park in Hamilton from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Himani Sarkar)