Wind taken out of England’s sails as sloppy first day allows New Zealand to build second Test advantage

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 (PA)
(PA)

At Lord’s, England won their first game under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes. Their performance was far from perfect, but on the whole their seamers were superb and their fielding was almost flawless. They were rightly pleased with it and praised for it.

When they reached Trent Bridge, they looked to continue riding that wave. There was grey overhead and green underfoot so Stokes won the toss and opted to bowl: it was time for his seamers to torment New Zealand’s top order – denied its key cog, Kane Williamson, by Covid – once more. This is James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s favourite place to bowl, after all. There were wickets in the air.

It did not quite work out like that. England’s seamers did not get things right, and runs flowed at a good lick for New Zealand; 20 boundaries in the morning session alone, and 318 runs in the day. England had good periods, twice breaking decent partnerships with a pair of quick wickets, but New Zealand always recovered. By day’s end they were in a very fine position indeed.

England’s fizz in the field did not last. They dropped three catches. The first was tough, with Zak Crawley diving in front of first slip Joe Root to miss Henry Nicholls on 17; fortunately he only added 13 more runs.

The next was straightforward – and far more costly. Shortly after the wickets of Nicholls and Devon Conway, Stokes found Daryl Mitchell’s edge on three and Root dropped a sitter. Mitchell was still there at stumps, following a century at Lord’s with a score of 81. Root dropped the third catch, but this was at best a quarter chance, Tom Blundell’s flashed cut off Jack Leach flying up to his right.

It was not just England’s catching that was sloppy. There were perhaps a dozen little misfields that cost runs, and Stokes’ fields could not prevent boundaries on a fast-scoring ground. In the wicketless final session, they took to wasting reviews.

Typically, the first time a seamer, Matt Potts, found Blundell’s edge, it flew at catchable height through third slip, which was vacant, for once. Even worse came in the final minutes of the day, when Broad got Blundell to edge to the cordon, and it went straight between Crawley and Jonny Bairstow at second and third. Neither moved a muscle.

There was one fine catch, Crawley’s low take of Will Young off Stokes in the morning session. Stokes was perhaps England’s best bowler, although Anderson – who had Tom Latham caught at square-leg and Conway caught behind – was tight and tidy, too. Broad and Potts were just a little untidy and, after his concussion at Lord’s, Leach was expensive at first but never enough to be hit out of the attack. It was 18 overs was more than he would have expected to bowl on day one, having won the toss and bowled.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Lesser teams than New Zealand would have been deflated by the loss of the first Test, then their captain as one of three changes. They are resilient, though. It was typical that their position of strength was built on teamwork: three fine partnerships.

Young and stand-in skipper Latham stuck on 82 for the first wicket, then fell in successive balls. Conway and Williamson came together to put on a swift 77 for the third wicket and, finally Mitchell and Blundell, the best batters at Lord’s shared another partnership of more than 150.

The trouble for England was that at Lord’s they came together after the entire top four had failed. Here, the ball was 42 overs old and there was already 169 runs on the board.

After the early drop, Mitchell was particularly excellent. He attacked Jack Leach, twice hitting him down the ground, with the second a six that landed in a punter’s pint. He reverse-swept Leach and Root, when he delivered a single spell. The width of his bat wound Anderson up, but there was no nibble from the New Zealander. Blundell kept pace with him, showing off his strength square of the wicket again.

The pair have a nervous night’s sleep ahead of them once more, and another chance to drive home New Zealand’s advantage.

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