England shoot against New Zealand and Ben Stokes smashes into the record books

England took the lead on the third evening of their series opener against New Zealand, on a day that saw captain Ben Stokes replace his head coach with six wins in Test cricket.

Three half-centuries from Joe Root (54), Harry Brook (57) and Ben Foakes (51) kept the tourists driving as they moved to 349 for eight, already 368 in the lead, but it was one stroke from the skipper to Brendon McCullum drew applause and a knowing smile.

The former Kiwi captain retired in 2016 with a world record 107 sixes, with Stokes equaling that mark in Multan before Christmas.

He moved out on his own as he edged past Scott Kuggeleijn’s fine moves midway through the third day, with McCullum admitting the torch had been lost from the team’s balcony. Stokes helped himself to another off the next ball, with Neil Wagner helpfully carrying over the line after standing on the boundary sponge.

The skipper was clearly thirsty for more but was stumped for 31, both feet leaving the ground as he cut spinner Michael Bracewell and hit fresh air.

New Zealand must already make their fourth-best innings, with a previous high of 324 against Pakistan in 1994, but there could be concerns about their bowling attack, with Ollie Robinson getting a treat healed from the vision while making sticks.

England made their intentions clear after returning to 79 for two, pushing the game forward with their usual frantic pace in the afternoon session.

With just over 25 bowlers, they scored 158 runs, their enthusiasm matching the price of four wickets.

Wagner found himself in the middle of the storm, picking up a few scalps but also when he took a rampant beating. Coming off relentless bowling, he found a batting line-up perfectly willing to take on the challenge.

At one point he conceded 84 runs off just seven wickets and conceded an eye-catching 104 by the end of the 11th over.

Things got off to a good start for the left armour, which ensured that the ‘nighthawk’ affair was short lived. His promotion on Friday night caused quite a stir, with the term even trending on Twitter back home, but he was gone for seven when he bent a simple catch in the gutter.

That success was a red herring for Wagner, who continued to serve visitors but less duty to the Pope and the Root. His next two overs went for 16 apiece, Pope stepping inside the line and pulling a big six behind square.

Root watched, learned and repeated – replicating the shot almost exactly as it gave the massive fans on the grassy banks of the Bay Oval more engaging practice.

Wagner refused to back down, even when Pope beat him under cover and the mid-on region was empty, and he was rewarded for his persistence when the number three gloved the next ball behind him.

There was no slowing down when Harry Brook came into form and added a brilliant 37-ball half-century. Once again, Wagner put himself in the firing line and Brook hammered away seven fours and two sixes.

Talk of a fourth Test hundred from eight innings was halted when he took advantage of Blair Tickner to slip, aiming for a puck at third. Root went into the pavilion in the final over of the session, ending a reverse sweep to slip, his second dismissal to a version of that stroke in the game.

England made another 112 for the loss of Stokes and Foakes before the second interval, the latter producing his most measured effort so far, and will hope their tail lasts long enough to put the home side in during the murderous period.

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