LORD’S –– After four sessions of mayhem, during which 23 wickets fell and the possibility of a two-day finish seemed palpably on, New Zealand seized control of this first Test to formally extinguish the honeymoon period for England’s new regime.
Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, as England coach and captain respectively, have consistently reminded everyone turning around the fortunes of a team who have won one Test in 17 won’t happen overnight.
Still, the aura of positivity that followed both men’s appointments and was carried into a first day when New Zealand were rocking on 45 for seven did have followers of England believing a corner might have been turned.
We should have listened to McCullum and Stokes after all because by the end of this second day and with the world Test champions leading by 227 with six second-innings wickets in hand, that early optimism has now been replaced with a familiar sense of dread.
New Zealand were thankful to an unbroken stand of 180 between Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell that was totally out of keeping with the rest of a match in which no other batter has scored more than 43.
By stumps Mitchell and Blundell were both on the brink of centuries that would indelibly mark their names onto the Lord’s honours board as they also delivered a sense of permanence about their team’s superiority in this contest.
For most sides, such a deficit on a pitch that has flattened out would not be insurmountable, especially with three days left and the second new ball due in the morning.
Yet for England, who have lost their final 10 wickets in an innings for 85 runs or less seven times since the start of 2019, the equation looks hopeless.
What will grate most is the fact they have thrown away a position of dominance in this match. Despite letting New Zealand off the hook when they were seven wickets down, England still dismissed them for 132 and then reached 59 without loss in reply. Yet, after a horrendous collapse left them 116 for seven overnight, they ended up with a first-innings lead of just nine when they were eventually bowled out for 141, 33 minutes into this second day.
That advantage actually looked quite handy when three rapid wickets left the tourists 38 for three at lunch, a lead of 29 and with both openers and captain Kane Williamson gone.
Matt Potts, the debutant who has fired that sense of optimism, was central to that uplift as he dismissed Williamson for the second time in just seven balls in this match – and then followed up with the wicket of Latham before lunch.
New Zealand runs came not from Anderson’s arm
By Kevin Garside, i’s chief sports correspondent
When Captain America Tom Brady visited Manchester seeking union with a fellow sporting alpha he chose the wrong Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo was not the worst choice but maybe not the best example of a global superstar still delivering after all these years. Pumping iron along the Warwick Road waiting for the chance to say “I told you so” was England’s peerless fast bowler.
It was Anderson who knocked over the first New Zealand wicket on day two, just as it had been 24 hours earlier, spearheading a 40-over rout already lost in the mists of time. Anderson shifted Will Young with the first ball of his second over, the 13th of New Zealand’s second innings. There is little new to say about a bloke bearing down on 650 Test wickets, save to point out he is one day closer to his 40th birthday at the end of next month.
Skipper Ben Stokes deferred either side of lunch to Anderson’s old spar Stuart Broad and the effervescent Potts, not returning to his principal nutcracker until midway through the afternoon. New Zealand were in deep grind mode by then, eschewing anything that did not need to be hit.
The total continued to climb but not off Anderson’s ball. In a spell after tee in which he was cast as foil for Ben Stokes’s short-pitched fusillade to bounce New Zealand into mistakes, Anderson went four overs without conceding a run. Stokes leaked 23 off five, albeit in full attack mode.
Read Kevin’s full analysis from Lord’s here
Stuart Broad, looking leggy on this second day, did keep the momentum of this match moving on apace when he dismissed Devon Conway early in the afternoon session to leave New Zealand 56 for four and leading by only 47.
Yet just as a first two-day Test in England for the first time since 2000 seemed on, Blundell and Mitchell counterpunched with some much-needed discipline and poise to end the madness.
Amid all this was the first action for Matt Parkinson on his Test debut as a concussion substitute, the Lancashire leg-spinner’s cameo with the bat in the morning moving England into the lead but then 14 wicketless overs when he was unable to conjure up the magic ball that might have shifted the momentum of this match once again.
England probably feel like they need a miracle to win this Test from here, yet at least they know they have a miracle worker in their ranks in Stokes. Nothing is impossible in this sport, especially with Stokes in the equation.
Yet the reality remains that the best chance of his team getting out of Lord’s still level in this three-match series probably lies in the hands of a weekend weather forecast that is predicting plenty of precipitation.
No Parky, no party
After becoming England’s first concussion replacement for the luckless Jack Leach, Matt Parkinson’s Test debut – something many have been waiting an age for – got underway with the bat. The leg-spinner’s first runs moved England into the lead and he ended up with eight as the hosts took a slim first-innings advantage.
It’s not been a great Test for Will Young. No, not the 2002 Pop Idol winner, the opener who has started the series with two scores of 1. Once again it was James Anderson, 40 next month, who got him, finding the edge that flew into the gloves of wicketkeeper Ben Foakes as New Zealand slipped to seven for one.
Potts hot start
Kane Williamson must be sick of Matt Potts after he was dismissed by him for the second time in 24 hours. Potts, who needed just five balls to claim New Zealand’s captain as his maiden Test wicket, took eight on day two to get his man again, Jonny Bairstow gathering the edge at third slip.
England had to wait 33 minutes after lunch to get New Zealand’s fourth wicket, Stuart Broad chipping in to tempt Devon Conway – scorer of a double century on debut at Lord’s a year ago – into a legside strangle that was well taken by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
Tom Blundell became the first batter in this match to reach a half-century when he drove Potts through point for four early in the final session. Daryl Mitchell joined him soon after. This was the first time since 1954 no player had scored a fifty in either side’s first innings at Lord’s and only the third time since 1888.