England begin Ben Stokes era with chaotic opening day against New Zealand

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Ben Stokes had a mixed day on his debut as England captain (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)
Ben Stokes had a mixed day on his debut as England captain (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

England began the Ben Stokes era with a chaotic day of cricket Lord’s, with 17 wickets tumbling on a frantic start to their first Test against New Zealand.

Led for the first time by the captain-coach pairing of Stokes and Brendon McCullum, with new director of cricket Rob Key also watching on, England looked to be putting a gloomy winter behind them with a rousing bowling display on day one at the home of cricket.

They rattled through the Black Caps batting card, skittling them for 132 in just 40 overs as the bowling honours were shared by the 39-year-old great James Anderson and 23-year-old debutant Matthew Potts, who took four wickets apiece.

A day of outright dominance appeared to be in the offing when Alex Lees and Zak Crawley pieced together an opening partnership worth 59, but things disappeared over the cliff edge as they lost seven for 41 after tea. After two sessions setting up a formidable position, they limped to the closing line at 116 for seven.

Stokes had publicly declared his side were working from “a blank canvas” following a dismal sequence of one victory in 17 attempts, but the flimsiness of the batting painted a familiar picture.

There was another layer to England’s disappointment too, with the luckless Jack Leach suffering concussion after an awkward fall in the field. He was replaced by leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who became England’s first-ever Test substitute after making a late dash from Manchester and finds himself pitched into a contest that sits on a knife-edge.

Matthew Potts had a fine debut for England at Lord’s (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)
Matthew Potts had a fine debut for England at Lord’s (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Stokes’ first act as the country’s 81st Test captain was to lose the toss, but everything else quickly fell into place as the old firm of Anderson and Stuart Broad dominated the opening exchanges.

The pair had been controversially dropped for March’s tour of the West Indies and Anderson took just seven deliveries to reopen his record wickets tally, challenging Will Young’s judgement against the swinging ball and seeing an outside edge zip low towards third slip.

Jonny Bairstow leapt into action, diving low to his left to pull off a one-handed stunner. The Yorkshireman juggled the next attempt Anderson sent his way but clung on at the second go to see off Tom Latham and make it two for two.

Not to be outdone, Broad was rewarded for attacking the stumps when Devon Conway – a double centurion on this ground last summer – nicked one through to give Bairstow his third catch in a row.

The seasoned duo had made their point – albeit to a selection panel that has since been disbanded – before the bustling Potts made a superb case for the next generation with standout figures of four for 13. He struck gold with his fifth delivery in the international arena, with Kiwi captain and star batter Kane Williamson edging low to keeper Ben Foakes to leave his side in disarray at 12 for four.

Potts’ first spell stretched to eight impressive overs and included two more well-earned celebrations, Daryl Mitchell (13) playing into his own stumps and Tom Blundell (14) losing his off stump to one that nipped back.

New Zealand were in disarray at 39 for six and took plenty of risks in the afternoon as Colin de Grandhomme (42no) and Tim Southee (26) dragged them towards three figures with some chancey strokes.

Joe Root was among the batters who failed on a miserable afternoon for England (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)
Joe Root was among the batters who failed on a miserable afternoon for England (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

But Anderson collected two more from short balls hooked to fine-leg, Potts trapped Ajaz Patel lbw and Stokes required just 10 deliveries to finish the job.

For 14 overs either side of tea, the contest remained one-sided as Lees and Crawley shared a stand of 59. The latter helped himself to seven boundaries and looked in control until he was caught behind for 43 off the nagging Kyle Jamieson.

The 6ft 8in quick then made short work of Ollie Pope, whose bold promotion to number three yielded just seven runs and ended with an edge to the wicketkeeper. The double strike had begun to take the shine off proceedings, but it was the loss of Joe Root – punching De Grandhomme to gully for 11 – that really stung.

Suddenly England had a game on their hands. Lees soaked up 77 balls for his 25 but got his footwork badly wrong as he shuffled into an lbw shout against Southee, who was starting to hoop the ball dangerously.

His swing was too good for Stokes, whose hopes of a captain’s innings lasted just nine balls and ended with a hopeful grope at one that curved away and into Blundell’s gloves. Stumps could not come soon enough for a side who had spent most of the day in control, but there was still time enough for Boult to remove Bairstow and Potts in the space of three deliveries.

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