Mitchell is the son for former All Blacks player and later head coach John Mitchell, who is the defense coach of the England rugby team. For that reason, the 28-year-old found his sympathies divided when New Zealand and England met in the World Cup semifinals in Japan. He put family ahead of patriotism and cheered England's 19-7 win.
There were no conflicting allegiances Saturday when Mitchell made his test debut. He shared a 124-run sixth-wicket partnership with wicketkeeper B.J. Watling which helped New Zealand reach 375 as it batted first after winning the toss.
At stumps England was 39-2 after 18 overs. Dom Sibley (4) and Joe Denly (4) were dismissed inside the first 10 overs, leaving Rory Burns and out-of-form captain Joe Root to battle to stumps against an exacting New Zealand attack.
Burns was dropped twice, by Ross Taylor at slip off Matt Henry when he was 11 and by Jeet Raval at mid-wicket off Tim Southee when he was 20, but he survived at 24 not out to bat again Sunday. Root is under pressure both for his own lack of form and England's and he toughed it out to stumps when he was on four.
"I guess if you said at the start of the game that I'd get 70 in the first innings I'd defnitely take it," Mitchell said. "It's nice to contribute, put some runs on the board and give the boys something to bowl to. To be able to put on the black cap was special. You're not human if you're not nervous and it was great to get that first run away and build from there."
The early part of the second day belonged to England who, after New Zealand resumed at 173-3, removed both overnight batsmen, Tom Latham for 105 and Henry Nicholls for 9, within nine overs. That brought Mitchell out for his test debut beside his North Districts provincial teammate B.J. Watling, who scored 205 in New Zealand's only innings of the first test to lay the foundation for its win by an innings and 65 runs.
The pair assembled a partnership which occupied all but nine overs of the first session and all but one ball of the second. Watling was out for 55 to the last ball before tea after he and Mitchell had defied the England attack for 53 overs and lifted New Zealand from 191-5 to 315-6, a strong position after having been sent in.
New Zealand resumed at 173-3 after the shortened first day in which almost all of the final session was lost to rain. Latham, 101 not out overnight, added four runs before being bowled by Stuart Broad. He likes to leave close to his off-stump but misjudged a ball angled in from around the wicket and was bowled without playing a shot.
Nicholls hooked a short ball from Sam Curran to Broad on the fine leg boundary. The next wicket didn't fall for almost half a day as Watling and Mitchell built an impressive partnership. Mitchell reached a half century on debut from 122 balls in 194 minutes and with five fours and one six. He became one of six members of the New Zealand 11 for this match — Watling, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Tim Southee are the others — to have scored a half century or better on debut.
Watling followed him to a half century from 180 balls in 239 minutes. He continued an extraordinary run which has seen him score 77, 105, 205 and 55 in his last four test innings, batting for more than 21 hours.
England struggled to break the partnership, even with the second new ball, until it found the effectiveness of the short ball. Bouncers from Stuart Broad accounted for both Watling, caught at gully by Bruns, and Mitchell caught at fine leg by Jofra Archer. The New Zealand tail quickly followed.
Sibley was struck on the helmet by Tim Southee, disconcerted and was out shortly afterwards, lbw to the same bowler. Denly flashed at a ball from Matt Henry and was caught by Watling, leaving Burns and Root to guide England to stumps.
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