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Having played a key part in heaving England back into the third Test with the bat towards the end of day two, Jamie Overton repeated the trick with the ball on day three. He took the wicket of Tom Latham with the first ball after tea to set up a compelling final session that ended with New Zealand on 168 for five and nursing a lead of 137.
“That last session put us right in the front seat,” he said. “We’re in a great position coming into tomorrow and if we can get the next two key wickets early then we’re in a great place to win the game.”
Between lunch and tea New Zealand had scored 112 largely untroubled runs off 27 overs for the loss of one wicket and the advantage appeared to be taking another swing before Overton’s intervention.
“We chatted at tea that potentially the afternoon session wasn’t that great for us,” he said. “We didn’t go for loads of runs but we didn’t feel like we bowled and fielded the way we wanted to. So coming out after tea it was just trying to enjoy ourselves, put the New Zealand guys under pressure, and that’s what we did.
“I like to put my hand up in those situations, when things are quite tough. Sometimes I’ll get given the ball and I’ll try to make the most of it.”
After finding Latham’s edge with his first ball Overton sent the next rearing into Devon Conway’s helmet, two deliveries that lifted the crowd and shifted the momentum. A short rain break might have broken the spell had Conway not fallen to the first ball after the resumption, brilliantly caught by Ollie Pope at short-leg off the bowling of Joe Root.
The only thing dimming England’s optimism at stumps was the continued presence of Tom Blundell and Daryl Mitchell, who have enjoyed partnerships of 120, 195 and 236 in this series.
“The breaks came at the right time for them and the wrong time for us,” said Trent Boult. “It was disappointing to lose a couple of wickets there just after those breaks but there’s a big partnership at the crease now and if they can play the way they have been throughout the series, and then hopefully some cameos from who’s to come, it’s anyone’s game.
“England bowled incredibly well and their batsmen have been under pressure but managed to counteract the things we’ve been throwing at them. It’s been an exciting series and there’s still a lot to play for here, so we’re really focused on putting that big score on the board and bowling really well to it.”
Overton had put a big score of his own on the board, starting the day on 89 and tantalisingly close to gilding his first Test with a second first-class century. However, he added only eight runs in the morning before diverting a Boult delivery to first slip. “I didn’t sleep great – I was tossing and turning quite a lot,” he said.
“I was always going to be a little bit nervous but I felt like I was in a great place this morning and didn’t quite get over the line. The ball was there to hit – I just hit it to the wrong place.”