England’s present captain and his likely successor both held firm after the early loss of Ian Bell as the hosts edged into the lead in he first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday.
At lunch on the fourth day, England in their second innings were 3-175 – 41 runs in front.
England skipper Alastair Cook was 69 not out and vice-captain Joe Root unbeaten on 58, with their unbroken stand for the fourth wicket so far worth 101 runs.
But given they were effectively 3-41, England’s difficulties were far from finished in a match where they have largely been outplayed in all aspects.
New Zealand had a first-innings lead of 134, with Kane Williamson making an impressive 132.
England resumed on 2-74, 60 runs adrift, with Cook (32 not out) and Bell (29 not out).
They had not added to their score when, off just the third ball of Sunday’s play, Bell, trying to drive a Tim Southee outswinger, edged high through to Tom Latham, deputising for injured wicket-keeper BJ Watling.
England, in their first match since former captain Andrew Strauss was appointed their director of cricket and with Jason Gillespie reportedly waiting in the wings to replace the sacked Peter Moores as the team’s full-time coach, now badly needed a decent stand between Cook and Root.
In the face of testing pace bowling, Cook responded with a 122-ball fifty that took the left-handed opener three hours.
Cook’s cut boundary against off-spinner Mark Craig then saw England into the lead.
Root – out for 98 in the first innings – swept Craig for four to post an 83-ball fifty including seven boundaries.
In the last over before lunch, Root, on 57, survived an ‘umpire’s call’ review after missing an inswinger from left-armer Trent Boult.