- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
England – strangely, given events of the last week – looked the more settled side, making just one change with Ollie Robinson taken out of the firing line. They chose an attacking option to replace him, pairing Olly Stone and Mark Wood for the first time.
New Zealand, by contrast, had made six changes, three of them enforced, and had a makeshift look: a new captain, a new wicketkeeper, a new No3, and just one bowler surviving from the impressive showing at Lord’s. The list of absentees looked a little more even than it had at Lord’s.
And Joe Root had won what felt a vital toss, on a straw-coloured flattie. There was a bit of cloud about, but the weather was set fair for the days ahead. All England had to do to vindicate their final day dig-in at Lord’s, which criticised by many for its lack of ambition, was to deliver the blueprint they speak so much about:
By lunch, they were right on course. They reached the break 67 without loss, after Rory Burns and Dom Sibley had soaked up some fine seam bowling on a flat pitch from the much-changed attack. There had been moments of uncertainty but when, really, are there not against an attack of this quality? Burns and Sibley battled hard; after 16 overs, they had 27 runs, but life got easier. It was the first time England’s openers had made it through the morning session on the opening day of a home Test since 2011, which is a remarkable, revealing statistic.
It was a mere illusion of calm, as England tumbled from 72 without loss to 85 for three, in the blink of an eye. On the final ball of the over after the break, matt Henry found a beauty that Sibley edged behind. Six balls later Zak Crawley, who had looked all at sea, jabbed down on a swinging delivery from Trent Boult and was caught well at third slip for a duck that follows two twos at Lord’s. Joe Root got a lovely ball from Henry, too, and was caught behind. Two wickets were the least Henry deserved.
The crowd had been silenced, and England were forced into a rebuild. This centred around Burns, a centurion at Lord’s. If that was his most important innings, this was among his most crisp and confident. He drove powerfully, pulled and flicked to leg.
In Ollie Pope, his Surrey team-mate, he briefly found an ally. It took Pope, who likes to deal in fours, 46 deliveries to find the boundary, and he appeared to recognise the gravity of this innings for himself and his team. But a momentary lapse followed that boundary, as he edged Ajaz Patel behind, when he could have simply left the ball.
That paired Burns and Dan Lawrence, briefly. Lawrence got off to a skittish start, so when Burns’ fine innings was ended by a loose drive at Trent Boult, and James Bracey fell in almost identical fashion to his first ball (meaning his Test career has started with two ducks), England fans were within their rights to fear the worst. Like Crawley, Bracey’s was a long, painful walk off.
Stone, in at No8, looked at least a place too high. But Lawrence settled and, after a stand of 47 with Stone and an unbroken 36 with Wood, England made it to stumps. Against the new ball, with the Hollies Stand rocking, there were some delightful boundaries, especially Lawrence’s drive.
This was a position tailor-made for the spunky Essex boy. He shifted about, driving and flicking, and laughing off his edges to third man as Henry had a word. England had squandered their position of power, but Lawrence has kept them right in this game. After the failures of those above him, he has a chance to make a powerful statement on the second day.