161-run stand helps home side recover from 30 for 4 to post 354 for 7 on first day against New Zealand at Lord's
New Zealand unleashed its fiery pace attack on a green deck at Lord's, but England found a way out courtesy fine knocks by Ben Stokes (92) and Joe Root (98) as the opening day of the Test summer ended with the home side in the driver's seat on Thursday (May 21).
England, who was reduced to 30 for 4 after the first hour, moved forward at a frenetic pace courtesy a counter-attacking 161-run stand between Stokes and Root. Both batsmen fell short of well-deserved centuries to hand New Zealand the advantage briefly in the afternoon, but England surged ahead courtesy the belligerence of Jos Buttler (67) and Moeen Ali (49 not out) as it went into stumps on 354 for 7.
The way things unfolded in the first hour caught everyone by surprise. Moeen Ali, slated to bat at No. 6, was having a hit at the adjacent Nursery grounds when Matt Henry, the debutant, went past Ian Bell's defense. But Stokes, who had to make a dash to the pitch, grabbed the opportunity with both hands, showing there wasn’t anything rushed about his game.
Backing his ability to play his strokes against the swinging ball, he kept the scoreboard rattling along to allow England some breathing space after Brendon McCullum inserted them in. The manner in which he countered the late swing and drove through the line was impressive.
But it wasn't sooth sailing earlier in the day. Adam Lyth, the debutant, who was selected after Jonathan Trott retired after the series against West Indies, fell for 7 when he was caught behind off Tim Southee. Next to follow was Gary Ballance, caught by Southee off Trent Boult at third slip for 1.
Then Alastair Cook fell for 16 attempting a hook shot after top-edging a Henry delivery to BJ Watling behind the stumps. Henry's dream start became even better as he produced another corker – a full-length ball pitching on off stump and holding its line – to dismiss Ian Bell for 1.
Root, recently installed as England’s vice-captain, had a nervy moment on 36 when he was struck on the back leg after missing a sweep against Mark Craig, the offspinner, but survived New Zealand’s lbw review. But from there on, the accumulator in him took over.
After the lunch break, Root completed a 53-ball fifty. But it was Stokes who really took the attack to New Zealand. He went from 64 to 89 in just 11 balls, including a six off Henry and a couple of superbly-timed fours through midwicket off Boult.
However, Stokes — eyeing what would have been just his second Test hundred following his brilliant 120 against Australia at Perth in December 2013 — then made an error in judgment as an in-drifter from Craig came back in down the slope to clatter the stumps. A disbelieving Stokes, who left the ball, walked off slowly having faced just 94 balls, including 15 fours and a six.
But Root, clearly unperturbed carried on, until a loss of focus resulted in his dismissal in the 90s. A short a wide delivery that ought to have been cut found the bottom edge as Tom Latham gleefully accepted a catch with Root two short of his century. Ali and Buttler then kept the bowlers at bay for a majority of the final session in an entertaining 103-run stand before Boult ended Buttler's stay with a full and sharp inswinger off the last ball of the day.