CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) Joe Root and Dawid Malan reached half centuries but were out within three deliveries Monday as England gave up some of its advantage in the second cricket test against New Zealand before lunch on day four.
England was 278-5 at the interval, still with a healthy lead of 307 runs, but with two new batsmen at the crease: Ben Stokes on 12 and first innings century-maker Jonny Bairstow on 2.
In losing the two established batsmen, Root and Malan, in the half-hour before lunch England had to rebuild its innings, slowing the progress to a declaration.
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And if a declaration was its object, England batted with a lack of urgency Monday, adding only 75 runs from 27 overs in the first session.
England resumed at 202-2, already leading New Zealand by 231 runs, and Malan went on to his sixth half century, and Root to his 38th.
But both played poor shots to get out at a time when England needed to increase its scoring rate and a dull session suddenly came to life as New Zealand rallied.
After a delay because Tim Southee was off the field, the new ball was finally taken five overs before lunch and its effectiveness is likely to shape the immediate course of the match.
Malan had been struggling in the series, dismissed for a first ball duck in the first innings and for 2 and 23 in the first test. He followed James Vince and Mark Stoneman who played themsleves out of form slumps Sunday, making 76 and 60 respectively, to steer England to the strong position it enjoyed at the start of play.
But Malan also followed Vince and Stoneman in getting out just when he appeared set to build a big score.
He was 52 when he flicked a ball from medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme off his pads to Henry Nicholls at mid-wicket.
Root also fell to a bad shot. Two balls after Malan he flashed at a ball from Neil Wagner wide of off stump and edged a catch to wicketkeeper B.J. Watling.
England still retains a poweful position and Stokes and Bairstow are the ideal batsmen to score quickly and to make a declaration possible before tea.