New Zealand fightback has England in trouble after new era’s bright morning | England v New Zealand 2022

Ben Stokes has packed so much into his 30 years on this planet that his first outing as England’s permanent Test captain starting at breakneck speed, and featuring more action than a Hollywood blockbuster, should probably be no surprise.

And it’s not like we weren’t warned, either. When Rob Key decided Brendon McCullum was the ideal head coach to pair with Stokes, the director of men’s cricket told folks to “buckle up and get ready for the ride”. An opening day of 17 wickets and 248 runs played out to the burbling hum of Lord’s, initially dominated by the hosts but with New Zealand fighting back in the final session, certainly met that billing.

Indeed, come the close it was the tourists in the ascendancy, atoning for a rusty performance in which they were rolled for 132 in 40 overs by reducing England to 116 for seven from 36 in reply. Zak Crawley had played a princely 43 only to fall to the latest booming drive of his nascent Test career, while Alex Lees dug in for 25. But otherwise it was a string of low scores as Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult ran amok.

This startling late collapse of seven for 41 had simply continued the gripping mood of a first innings in which the returning Jimmy Anderson and the impressive debutant Matt Potts took four wickets apiece, Jonny Bairstow made three fine catches, and play stopped at 23 overs so the ground could applaud the life of Shane Warne. There was also a nasty tumble over the boundary rope that forced poor Jack Leach to be subbed out of his first home Test in two years with concussion symptoms.

While the latter incident meant Matt Parkinson had to hare down the motorway from Manchester to make an unexpected Test debut, arriving at 5.30pm with his side batting, it may be best to go back to the start. Stokes walked out for the toss alongside Kane Williamson, eschewing the captain’s blazer; instead he chose to wear a Test shirt with the name and cap number of Graham Thorpe on the back, a touching tribute for the team’s former batting coach who remains seriously ill in hospital.

Williamson called correctly but things went south for the visiting skipper thereafter, the world champions living down to pre-series fears about their readiness by crumbling to 12 for four in the 10th over and 39 six by lunch. However good the menu may be at the Home of Cricket – a choice of lamb rump or grilled halibut for the players on this first day – one suspects it probably could have tasted better for the visitors.

But then New Zealand are such a phlegmatic bunch, perhaps they were able to rationalise all this. After all, they had come up against two stellar operators in Anderson and Stuart Broad, veterans desperate to prove a point after the nonsense of their absence from the Caribbean tour, plus county cricket’s form horse in the flinty-eyed Potts. And as it later proved, there was a bit on offer out there for the seamers.

England’s Matt Potts, pictured bowing at New Zealand’s Trent Boult, enjoyed a dream-like start to his debut at Lord’s before the afternoon’s travails.
England’s Matt Potts, pictured bowing at New Zealand’s Trent Boult, enjoyed a dream-like start to his debut at Lord’s before the afternoon’s travails. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Certainly Anderson and Broad hit a rich groove with the new ball, the pair bowling the lengths that Joe Root was still demanding during the final days of his captaincy to vaporise New Zealand’s top order. Anderson was up and running in just his second over, too, Will Young poetically falling to a man who turns 40 next month after he edged an outswinger to the cordon and Bairstow grasped a diving one-hander to his left.

Bairstow’s follow-up in the fifth over was no less spectacular, taking a diving rebound off his own initial fumble after Tom Latham’s drive off Anderson. The Yorkshireman’s third was at least less stressful with Devon Conway, a double-centurion on debut at this ground 12 months ago, struggling with Broad’s angle from around the wicket and presenting a simple low catch.

Potts could seldom have wished for a better position from which to enter the fray at first change, nor a more dream-like start to his Test career thereafter. Hustling in from the Nursery End, his fifth ball nipped away from Williamson, feathered the edge and offered Ben Foakes his first dismissal at home. Happy Days for young Pottsy, if you will.

The 23-year-old from Sunderland certainly offered a point of difference from the big two, even if he operates at a similar pace. He hit the splice hard from back of a length in the main – this method forcing Daryl Mitchell to chop on to his stumps to make it 27 for five – with the fuller delivery the sucker ball that accounted for Tom Blundell, bowled offering no shot, and the tailender Ajaz Patel lbw during the afternoon.

Anderson bouncing out both Jamieson and Southee in between meant he and Potts were vying to make the honours board. But in the end a dose of cramp forced the younger man off the field two balls into his 10th over, with Stokes taking over and claiming the final wicket of Boult. So far, so very good for the new England captain.

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Come stumps, however, the all-rounder was pondering the same issues that dominated the winter and forced England’s regime change. Though Boult and Southee squandered the new ball, the introduction of the giant Jamieson changed the complexion of events: he profited from Crawley’s latest error of judgment, teased a tame poke behind from Ollie Pope on seven, and allowed his colleagues to pile in.

Among them was Colin de Grandhomme, who after carving a useful 42 with the bat ended Root’s first innings back via an edged cut to third slip. It was the first of five wickets to fall for just eight runs, with Southee trapping Lees lbw and nicking off Stokes with an outswinger, and Boult then knocking over Bairstow and Potts with Foakes looking on from the non‑striker’s end.

After a promising start to the new era, England had somewhat buckled.

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