At tea, New Zealand was 316-5, just 37 runs behind England's first innings of 353, with Watling 79 not out and de Grandhomme 65. Their partnership for the sixth wicket was worth 119 runs and gave New Zealand the upper hand in a match in which the initiative has passed freely between closely-matched teams.
New Zealand started the day at 144-4, still more than 200 runs behind England and on the back foot after losing captain Kane Williamson (51) near the end of the second day. Watling shared a 70-run fourth wicket partnership with Henry Nicholls (41) in the morning which helped bring the match back into balance.
Nicholls departed with the score 197-5, having batted courageously through most of the first session. The left-hander was struck on the helmet late on Friday by England speedster Jofra Archer and needed to pass a concussion test before continuing his innings Saturday.
Archer was wayward both before and after the arrival of the second new ball at the start of the afternoon session and had 0-76 from 24 overs at the break. Watling found a dependable new partner in de Grandhomme and their partnership put New Zealand on top for the first extended time in the match. It enjoyed a brief period of ascendancy when seamer Tim Southee took three wickets in the of 11 balls on the second morning to reduce England to 295-8 after it had started the day on top at 241-4.
Jos Buttler and Jack Leach tipped the match back in the tourists' favor when they added 52 for the ninth wicket to allow England to reach a competitive total after it had won the toss. Williamson's loss was a major blow to New Zealand. The New Zealand captain had looked extremely comfortable at the crease as he batted on his home ground, only a few hundred meters from his house.
Watling's lucrative partnerships for the fifth and sixth wickets were the perfect restorative action for New Zealand. His innings was hardly chanceless — he was dropped by Ben Stokes on 31 and twice survived lbw appeals with the help of the Decision Review System. But he showed all the qualities of resilience in his 18th test half century which have made him so valuable to New Zealand for so long.
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