England rally but New Zealand in control on day four

New Zealand took the prized wicket of Joe Root at the end of day four of the first Test against England, who remain firmly on the back foot.

Joe Root in action for England.   -  Getty Images

New Zealand remain on course for victory in the first Test with England, despite belated resistance from the tourists on day four in Auckland.

Facing an enormous first-innings deficit of 369 after Henry Nicholls' unbeaten 145 had guided the Black Caps to 427-8 declared, England rallied through fifties from Mark Stoneman and skipper Joe Root.

However, Stoneman fell for 55 in the final session and Root (51) was then ousted by Trent Boult (2-24) with what proved the final ball of the day, leaving England in trouble on 132-3, still 237 runs in arrears.

Following the day-one horror show that saw England skittled for 58, two days of wet weather had frustrated the hosts in their push for a win.

Yet Boult's removal of Root, who had been dealt a painful blow on his bottom hand immediately before being dismissed, means New Zealand are still strong favourites to triumph on the final day, when Dawid Malan (19 not out) will be joined by Ben Stokes.

The downpours of the previous two days were nowhere to be seen when New Zealand resumed on 233-4 and, while Stuart Broad (3-78) and James Anderson (3-87) caused early problems, the home side proceeded to stretch their advantage.

Broad claimed the wickets of BJ Watling (31) and Todd Astle (18) but the efforts of Nicholls, coming on the back of captain Kane Williamson's 102 on Saturday, propelled New Zealand into a position from which they could declare.

Nicholls' total was his highest in first-class cricket and marked the second time he had reached three figures in Tests.

The challenge for England was to make their hosts bat again and the loss of Alastair Cook (2) to Boult in the third over of their second innings may have raised fears that another humiliating showing was in the offing.

However, Stoneman and Root combined to great effect, putting on 88 for the second wicket, the opener striking seven boundaries to his skipper's five.

Stoneman ultimately undid his hard work by holing out to long leg off Neil Wagner in the 30th over, before New Zealand claimed an even more valuable breakthrough just before stumps, Boult following up the bouncer that hit Root on the fingers with another nasty delivery that the batsman could only glove behind.

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