Careless England let bright start to new dawn slip as disastrous batting follows spectacular bowling

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·4-min read
Careless England let bright start to new dawn slip as disastrous batting follows spectacular bowling
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When Rob Key appointed Brendon McCullum as England Test coach, in partnership with captain Ben Stokes, he warned fans that it was “time for us all to buckle up and get ready for the ride”.

Even in his most cavalier moments, Key could not have imagined the very first day being a ride quite like this.

England had New Zealand seven for three, 45 for seven, and eventually bowled them out for 132.

When it was to their turn to bat (in lovely conditions!), as if in the interest of entertainment in a week that has seen cricket’s value for money under the microscope, England were more than a little careless.

They reached stumps only 16 behind, the catch being that they had lost seven wickets. New Zealand are not out of this yet; McCullum had learnt the hard way that for all the opposition rarely are when England bat.

The new captain made just one; the old captain, Joe Root, managed 11. They lost five for eight from 92 for two. Changing England’s batting fortunes will take a little longer than a few smiley training sessions.

The drama did not stop there. They employed their first concussion sub, Matt Parkinson, who hared down from Manchester after Jack Leach landed awkwardly chasing a ball to the fence in trademark McCullum style.

Parkinson travelled from Manchester (M6, M1, with a stop at Keele Services, if you were wondering) came in for the oddest debut, but the other new face, Matt Potts, made a dream start. He bowled beautifully to take four wickets for 13 before leaving the field with cramp. The first of those wickets was Kane Williamson, just five balls in. It was a shame that the struggles of those higher up meant he had to bat, and register a duck in his first innings as an international cricketer.

The recalled veterans, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, shared five wickets, with the 39-year-old dismissing the openers for one each in the first five overs of the day. The catcher, with one hand each time, was Jonny Bairstow, setting the tone for an outstanding fielding display, with Potts snaffling a pair of excellent takes in the deep. At one stage, England had six slips.

To boot, there were emotional tributes to Shane Warne, who died in March, before and during play, as well as to Graham Thorpe, who fell ill last month, from Stokes at the toss.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

England had bowled beautifully to work themselves into a position of supreme strength, but the decline in their day actually began even before they batted. New Zealand took lunch on 39 for six, with everything going England’s way. But they remerged with a gung-ho attitude. Kyle Jamieson launched a couple of boundaries, then got out, but the efforts of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and especially Colin de Grandhomme were more sustained.

England had had designs on skittling the tourists for under 100, but they limped well. Nevertheless, the world seemed a calmer place as England’s openers added 59 before the inevitable collapse.

The first two men to go were Zak Crawley and No3 Ollie Pope, into whom England have invested plenty and about whom the new captain spoke enthusiastically on the eve of the Test. Each fell caught behind off Jamieson, the pick of the bowlers, in frustrating fashion.

The openers had shared 50 runs, many of them lovely Crawley boundaries. Having carved three drives after tea, he felt for another one and, disbelievingly, got a tickle through. Pope, smothered by Jamieson’s bounce, was less fluent, and just had a fiddle at one that should have been left alone.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Out came Root, easing his first ball through point for four, and all felt right with the world. When he prodded De Grandhomme, who tormented him in the World Cup final here three years ago, to gully, they did not.

It unravelled fast; opener Alex Lees, a bulwark until then, employed a strange strategy to the right-armers from round the wicket, and stepped too far across his stumps. Stokes fiddled outside off-stump, then Bairstow played on. Potts, very high at No8, was bounced out.

New Zealand had started poorly with the ball, but were ticking now. Jamieson brought awkward aggression, while Tim Southee swung the ball plenty out of the hand. Trent Boult, having only arrived from the IPL on Monday, was late to the party, but chipped in with two wickets.

Key did promise it would not be dull.

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