England centurion Johnny Bairstow and debutant Jamie Overton blazed a thrilling unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 209 in 223 balls to guide their teetering side to 264 for six at the close of the second day of the third test with New Zealand on Friday.
The imperious Bairstow has now blasted back-to-back centuries as he finished unbeaten on 130 from 126 balls, while number eight Overton showed his genuine all-round qualities with an equally eye-catching 89 not out from only 106 deliveries.
England trail the tourists’ first innings score of 329 by 65 runs at Headingley, but will be delighted with their fightback after they slipped to 55 for six in their reply.
It is the highest seventh-wicket partnership for England against New Zealand and Overton’s score is the most by an England player on debut batting at number eight or lower.
The pair did it in some style too, with a mix of aggressive hitting and deft stroke-making as New Zealand were simply unable to slow the flow of runs.
The momentum in the test is now back with England but in the middle session of the day they were floundering.
After Daryl Mitchell’s third century of the series helped New Zealand to 329 just after lunch, seamer Trent Boult clean bowled England’s opening three batsman as the hosts’ top order wilted.
England captain Ben Stokes said before the test that his side were in the “entertainment business”, but their innings was initially a horror show as Boult (3-73) ripped through their top order.
Alex Lees (4) fell to an unplayable Boult thunderbolt that clipped the top of his off stump after pitching on middle.
Ollie Pope made five before having his off stump flattened as he played across the line and Zack Crawley (6) then had his middle stump rocked back by a Boult inswinger.
Tim Southee got in on the act to have Joe Root (5) caught behind after he nicked an angled delivery to leave England 21-4.
Stokes and Bairstow fought fire with fire, blazing away to briefly halt New Zealand’s momentum but Stokes, who looked to recklessly attack every delivery, threw his wicket away, chipping a Neil Wagner delivery to Kane Williamson at mid-off having scored 18 from 13 balls.
In the same over Wagner then trapped Ben Foakes for a duck to leave England six wickets down after 11.5 overs — the quickest they had ever lost their first six wickets in a home test.
But Overton and Bairstow, whose 136 in 92 balls at Trent Bridge in the second test won the game for England, took up the mantle and scored runs at pace as they grasped the initiative back.
Earlier, on an overcast morning, New Zealand resumed on 225-5 and put on exactly 100 runs before lunch with Mitchell once again a thorn in England’s side.
He lost his partner Tom Blundell (55) with whom he shared yet another century partnership but reached three figures with a straight six off spinner Jack Leach.
Mitchell, the first New Zealand batsman to score centuries in three successive tests against England, was out to the last ball before lunch.
England are seeking to win every match of a home series with at least three tests for the first time since a 4-0 rout of India in 2011.