Ryan Sidebottom turned in a miserly spell of four wickets for five runs in 10.1 overs on Friday as New Zealand were bowled out for 277 on the second day of the first Test here at Lord's.
Openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook then built on Sidebottom's good work and England, at stumps, were 68 without loss.
Strauss was 24 not out and fellow left-hander Cook 43 not out when a fifth stoppage for bad light ended play, much to the annoyance of spectators, some of whom had paid as much as £65 (US$130) for a ticket.
Sidebottom, the Black Caps’ tormentor-in-chief with 24 wickets during England’s 2-1 Test series win in New Zealand in March, found his line on Friday after a wicketless first day.
“I was bitterly disappointed with my performance yesterday [Thursday],” said the 30-year-old left-arm quick. Sidebottom, who finished with figures of four for 55 in 28.2 overs, said a talk with England bowling coach Ottis Gibson had helped him regain his accuracy.
“I spoke to Ottis this morning and worked on a few things. I didn’t use my arms enough when running in. It was a bit lazy. You can’t bowl well all the time, but no excuses, it was pretty poor,” he said. “I wanted to come back and bowl a bit better.”
Sidebottom is the oldest of England’s pace bowlers although James Anderson has appeared in more Tests. Asked if he felt he was now the “leader” of England’s attack, the Nottinghamshire seamer said: “Why shouldn’t I? Any bowler should think like that. I’ve been around a bit more than Stuart Broad and Jimmy. It’s an added responsibility and one I’d like to take on.”
He then praised the way in which Strauss and Cook batted through to the close.
“It’s not easy when you are coming off and on all the time. You can lose concentration they played really well,” he said.
Asked about whether the light really was unplayable, Sidebottom replied: “It’s not down to me, it’s down to the umpires. They [New Zealand] came off quite a bit, so why shouldn’t we?”
Cook was particularly harsh on Tim Southee, striking the pace bowler for three fours in an over in what was only the teenager’s second Test.
Considering New Zealand had been 104 for five, in overcast, seam-bowler friendly conditions after losing the toss, theirs was a fine recovery.
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori did his best to keep England at bay with 48 before he was last man out, bowled by Sidebottom.
Vettori’s innings supplemented wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum’s excellent run-a-ball 97 which began New Zealand’s fightback on Thursday.
“As a bowling unit yesterday [Thursday], we probably weren’t aggressive towards McCullum, we let him play a lot of front-foot shots,” Sidebottom said. “Today, the plan was to be more aggressive and bowl a few more bouncers.”
Sidebottom’s haul was all the more impressive as he didn’t take a wicket until his 24th over.
New Zealand’s enduringly fragile top-order has often left Vettori needing to revive an innings and they badly needed the spinner’s runs on Friday.
Vettori, however, guided his side nearer 300 with three well-struck fours in as many balls off Anderson.
He was in sight of his 17th Test fifty when he was bowled by Sidebottom after making a late decision to try to leave the ball.
In all, he batted for 162 minutes and faced 100 balls with six fours.
New Zealand, after Sidebottom, aided by Strauss’s slip catch, removed all-rounder Jacob Oram for 28, looked as if they might get through the morning session for the loss of just one wicket.