England captain Alastair Cook scored his 25th Test century as the hosts strengthened their vice-like grip on the second Test against New Zealand at Headingley in Leeds, England, yesterday.
At lunch on the fourth day, England were 249-3 in their second innings — a lead of 429 runs after left-handed opener Cook had extended his overnight 88 to 130.
The most any side has ever made in the fourth innings to win a Test is the West Indies’ 418-7 against Australia in Antigua in 2002-2003 and the corresponding record for New Zealand is the 325-4 they posted against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1993-1994.
In the first innings New Zealand collapsed to 174 all out — although it was an improvement on the 68 they managed in the second innings of their 170-run loss at Lord’s that left them 1-0 down in the two-Test series.
Cook, still only aged 28 and in his 92nd match at international level, extended his England Test century record with a cover-drive off Tim Southee, his 15th four in 152 balls.
Together with Jonathan Trott, he put on 134 for the second wicket.
Trott, dropped on 40 when he gave a difficult chance to first slip Ross Taylor off a hard-hit reverse sweep against part-time off-spinner Kane Williamson, was 76 not out at lunch.
Willamson did take two wickets in eight balls as Cook got a leading edge to mid-off and Ian Bell holed out on the slog-sweep.
First-innings centurymaker Joe Root was 20 not out on his Yorkshire home ground.
It seems as if only rain, which washed out all of Friday’s first day, can spare New Zealand from defeat. Their cause was not helped yesterday when left-arm seamer Trent Boult, who took five first-innings wickets, was declared unfit to bowl after aggravating a side strain.
Graeme Swann took four wickets as England established a commanding position on the third day.
“I didn’t get much of a bowl at Lord’s, I felt I missed out there and I was very keen to get on early here,” Swann told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special. “Getting wickets is important for any bowler and to get a few bowled through the gate pleased me greatly. You only get three or four of those in a calendar year and I got two in two overs.”
Swann defended the decision not to enforce the follow-on, saying: “There is an awful lot of cricket to be played in this game and there are no demons in this pitch.”