52nd over: New Zealand 149-4 (Nicholls 27, Watling 10) Curran kicks things off, with the Barmy Army offering a sleepy chorus of Jerusalem from one of the grass banks. BJ Watling flicks off his pads, past square-leg for a settling four.
Here we go!
The teams are out right on cue at a sun-kissed Bay Oval.
Tim Southee speaks! “We’ve got a couple of guys at the crease who know how to scrap. We knew this pitch would get tougher to bat on as the Test went on. It’s a big day for us.”
From 7,000 miles to 700 yards (I’m guessing), here’s Graeme Simpson:
“Kia ora from just over the hill, inland from the Mount. I’d go over but am stuck with domestic duties. In spite of the outcome at the World Cup (and the deja vu ending of the T20 series), there seems to be genuine mutual respect between these two squads. Bring on day three!”
“Following the progress of this game from a very wet Medellin,” writes the intrepid Will West. “Still Friday afternoon here, so just caught up with yesterday’s match report, followed by a scroll through the OBO. Great to see plucky Sam Curran among the wickets, and a particular treat to see Kim Thonger’s famous hound Dakkers! A real ambassador for the game. More of both today please…”
Medellin is 7,474 miles from Tauranga, and 5,253 miles from London. Will, you may be our most far-flung reader. Welcome!
“The first new ball is really crucial,” says Sam Curran. “We need to get rid of Nicholls and De Grandhomme. If it doesn’t swing, I can come around the wicket, try to trap them in the crease.” He’s also talking up his hopes of cementing a Test place.
I remember visiting the Oval for the last day of the county season in 2015, seeing the Currans in action, and thinking they would surely both play for England soon enough. That one rattles around all alone in my “accurate sporting predictions” file.
Peter Gibbs writes: “I had noted the welcome relief, like that of a collective settling into one’s favourite armchair, that poured out on OBO as things got underway two nights ago.
“You were back, transporting us away from this misery to another hemisphere, to a time where matches were measured in days, openers were compared to Gower immediately before departing via outside off. and England collapses were of metronomic persistence.
“But now with Willamson in the shed I have this “no idea what is going to happen” uneasy feeling – like there’s a glitch in the matrix. Most unsettling.”
Hello and welcome, wherever you are. England have the edge here after two days of play, with Kane Williamson gone for 51 and New Zealand resuming on 144-4, still some 200 runs behind. All that remains is for the tourists to tidy up the tail, then glide into an imperious lead before sunset.
Of course, this being The England Cricket Team, nothing could ever be so straightforward. The pendulum has already swung plenty in an evenly-matched affair. A textbook batting collapse surrendered England’s advantage on day two, only for Sam Curran to snatch it back with that precious Williamson wicket.
The year’s great sporting rivalry is sure to throw up some more twists and turns yet, and it could easily be the hosts who end up on top at the end of another absorbing day. Whatever happens in this bucolic corner of the planet, which feels like a parallel universe to this Greater London-based nighttime OBOer, it should be a pleasure to watch.
Play starts at 11am local, 10pm GMT.