England vs New Zealand: Dream start to Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum era as debutant Matt Potts takes charge

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Celebrations: England debutant Matt Potts enjoyed a dream first session of Test cricket  (Action Images via Reuters)
Celebrations: England debutant Matt Potts enjoyed a dream first session of Test cricket (Action Images via Reuters)

England’s new era under Ben Stokes’ captaincy began in dream fashion as they reduced New Zealand to 39 for six in the opening session at Lord’s.

There were two wickets for Jimmy Anderson, one for Stuart Broad as well as three for the debutant Matt Potts, as England put in an outstanding performance having been asked to bowl first by New Zealand.

There was one cloud for England: in the sixth over of the day, Jack Leach chased a ball to the boundary in front of the Warner Stand, but fell awkwardly in the process. After a long delay, Leach was helped from the field, and did not emerge again.

It was soon revealed that tests had revealed concussion symptoms, and he was withdrawn from the match, with Lancashire spinner Matt Parkinson named as his replacement.

Concussion subs have been allowed in Test cricket for three years, but this is England’s first – but not Lord’s, after Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne came in for Steve Smith in 2019.

Having won just one of their last 17 Tests, England have undergone an overhaul of their leadership, with Rob Key coming in as managing director (replacing Ashley Giles), Brendon McCullum as Test coach, and Stokes as captain.

They have also recalled Anderson and Broad, the two most prolific wicket-takers in their Test history, after they were unceremoniously dropped for March’s tour of the West Indies.

Anderson picked up the first two wickets to fall, New Zealand’s openers, both victims of brilliant one-handed catches from Jonny Bairstow at third slip.

In Anderson’s second over, from the Pavilion End, Will Young edged Anderson low to Bairstow’s left, and he dived to pluck the ball just above the surface. The one to get left-hander Tom Latham in Anderson’s next over was rather different. Latham’s hard-handed push flew high to Bairstow, who parried, then dived forward to take the catch with his right hand.

Bairstow was soon one of England’s six slips, as Stokes borrowed a move from the McCullum playbook.

It was Bairstow who provided Broad with his first wicket of the match, as Devon Conway edged a more regulation chance which he took with ease, leaving New Zealand seven for three.

Stokes took Broad off and replaced him with Potts, the Durham debutant who had been handed his cap by Steve Harmison earlier in the morning. He struck with his fifth ball, with the prized wicket of Kane Williamson, caught by the diving Ben Foakes behind the stumps.

In the fifth over of his spell, from the Nursery End, Potts took the wicket of Daryl Mitchell, chopping on, and thought he had Tom Blundell shortly after. The wicketkeeper was saved from an lbw dismissal by a faint inside edge.

Never mind, an over later Blundell was bowled, indecisive over whether to play or leave. Potts’ outstanding first spell read 8-4-8-3.

After the 23rd over, the last before lunch, the game stopped for 23 seconds’ applause in honour of Shane Warne, the great Australian leg-spinner who died in March aged 52.

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