Stuart Broad encouraged he is on course for Test return for England

The England bowler took one wicket on the second day against a New Zealand XI

Stuart Broad had to work very hard for meagre rewards today, but was nonetheless encouraged that he is on track for a Test return next week.

Broad took just one wicket - his first of the winter in first-class cricket, after his troubles in India - as a New Zealand XI replied to England's 426 all out with 224 for six.

On the other hand, he got through 15 overs without significant discomfort from the chronic heel injury which compromised his performances before Christmas.

Broad has played only limited-overs cricket, before this four-day warm-up match at the Queenstown Events Centre ground, since being dropped for the third Test in Kolkata and then having to fly home early while his team-mates were completing a historic series victory in Nagpur in December.

Hamish Rutherford (90) underlined his credentials as a Test opener - he is in line for a debut in Dunedin - with the major contribution for the hosts on day two of four, after Ian Bell (158) added to his overnight century.

Broad then bowled four spells as he and his fellow seamers laboured long and hard before two late wickets in six balls gave England a spring in their step.

"The heel injury is still around. It's going to be around for quite a while," said Broad.

"I do need to manage that. It still gets a bit tender towards the back-end of spells but that's to be expected.

"I didn't feel it too much today, and I hope it will pull up pretty well tomorrow."

He was heartened to have proved to himself and others that he can carry the workload England will need from him if, as expected, he is named as their third seamer next week.

"I'll sleep well tonight," he said. "It always takes a bit of getting used to but I got through the spells pretty well; it's an encouraging sign.

"The build-up throughout this tour has been really good for me, starting with Twenty20 cricket, going into the one-day format - and now we have pretty much four back-to-back games.

"So the workload is going to be tough. But you just need to manage that well, and I feel like I'm doing that at the moment.

"That's why you play these games. You want time in the field; you want to be able to bowl back-to-back spells, but also you want to win the games."

England drew a blank with the new ball before lunch, but Broad's eventual figures of one for 35 read well in comparison with those of his fellow frontline seamers Graham Onions and Chris Woakes.

"My action feels really nice at the moment," he added.

"I feel like I'm hitting the crease hard and getting some good bounce.

"I felt pretty unlucky not to pick up a wicket with that new ball. I had a few plays-and-misses and it nipped around a little bit."

He gave England an upbeat report collectively too.

"As a bowling unit, I think we're pretty happy with how the day has gone," he said.

"We maybe could have forced the issue a little bit from 35 to 60 overs, where the ball didn't do a huge amount for us.

"But we kept it pretty tight and at the end of the day, six wickets from 74 overs you'd take against a pretty good side.

"I think the wicket changed quite a bit throughout the afternoon. In the first two hours, there was little bit of seam there with the dampness. But once the sun was on the wicket, it played pretty true throughout the day."

It was thanks to Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann that England picked up those two wickets just before stumps.

"We're delighted," said Broad.

"We've got the new ball just around the corner, so we're in a decent position in this game.

"Getting 430 was a pretty good effort on a wicket that seamed pretty much all day yesterday and it looks like - as expected - it's going to flatten out a little bit.

"So it's important we get those four wickets in the next 80 runs."

For their opponents, Rutherford impressed throughout - all the more so because he had to contend with a wayward contact lens during his innings.

Asked if it was a concern, the opener said: "Very much so - it went up to my brain somewhere at one point.

"I was struggling to see it.

"There's been an issue over the last month, so I need to get it sorted ASAP.

"It came back down again. But I don't have spare ones here, so I need to sort it out."

 



PA

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