Devon Conway’s stunning debut century puts New Zealand in charge against England at Lord’s

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<p>Devon Conway celebrates his century</p> (Getty Images)

Devon Conway celebrates his century

(Getty Images)

Crowds back, a new season beginning, and a clutch of debutants: it was a day of fresh starts at Lord’s.

New Zealand ended it in charge, thanks to a magnificent debut hundred from Devon Conway, who suits this team down to the ground: organised, unassuming, uncomplicated. Kane Williamson had won an important toss on a fine batting surface; Conway took full advantage, making the highest score by a debutant at Lord’s.

England had two debutants of their own. James Bracey performed as expected behind the stumps; he has never claimed to possess the artistry of Ben Foakes, for whom he is standing in (among others). He looked confident, and comfortable in his work.

The other, Ollie Robinson, had a slightly more complicated day. He bowled impressively, and was never easy to get away. His rewards were the wickets of Tom Latham – playing on – from the Pavilion End in his first spell, then Ross Taylor – plumb lbw – from the Nursery End in his second. He celebrated wildly, as he has so often in recent years for Sussex.

The backdrop was curious, and very modern. As he toiled away, incriminating old tweets – from the early 2010s, when Robinson was a teenager – surfaced, and duly did the rounds, rapidly. Robinson was probably rather enjoying himself on the field, oblivious to what was going on off it.

England picked up one wicket in the opening session, and two in the second. That represented a reasonable effort on a sleepy surface. In the evening session, though, England were passive, and the game drifted New Zealand’s way as Conway became ever more settled.

England’s over-rate was slow (the new ball was only taken five minutes after the scheduled close of play), chances were rare, and the occasion felt rather flat. While there were no missed chances per se, England’s fielding was untidy. In the evening, they bowled nicely with the new ball, but had time for just six wicketless overs.

England had opted for four seamers and, while each bowed tidily and tightly enough (Robinson was the leakiest, with an economy of 3.12), they missed a frontline spinner. Joe Root himself shuffled through 12 cheapish overs, almost having Henry Nicholls stumped by Bracey.

Unlike Robinson, there was no negative for Conway. It should be little surprise that he has performed so well, this soon. New Zealand debutants have tended to settle quickly, but he arrived with a mountain of first-class runs behind him – an average of 47, and a triple-century, – and a strong record in white ball internationals. In his first three ODIs, he scored a century and a fifty. In his first 11 T20I innings, he has four half-centuries, including a 99 not out. He is 29, and knows his game.

So when Latham soaked up the first 18 balls of the day, he was unflustered. So too when he was struck a couple of times by Mark Wood, who bowled upwards of 90mph consistently. The same was true when crowds rolled through in the afternoon, and England’s seamers lifted their game.

He even looked unflustered when he launched Robinson behind square on the legside with an audacious flamingo stroke – by some distance his wildest stroke – to move to his century. It had taken 163 balls, and made him the 12th Kiwi to score a ton on Test debut.

With the two big guns, Kane Williamson (who played on to James Anderson in the over after lunch) and Taylor, falling in the teens, Conway received handsome support from his fellow left-handers, Latham and Nicholls.

He shared 58 with Latham for the first wicket, then an unbeaten with Nicholls, who was in no hurry whatsoever. That was wise: he will return tomorrow, on another sunny day, in a bid to follow Conway’s lead.

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