Root Guides England to First Win in Ten
After England’s winter of disappointments, it was all change at the top for England, with Ben Stokes taking over from Joe Root as captain, while Brendon McCullum was the new Test coach. If ever a pairing seemed likely to push England in a more positive direction it was these two. After six defeats and three draws in their previous nine games, they certainly needed something different. Stokes said the three words he wanted associated with his team were ‘selfless, positive and enjoyment’.
For the first Test of the summer, against New Zealand at Lord’s, we saw the return of England’s two great bowling stalwarts, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. There was a first Test cap for Matty Potts of Durham, who had started the season in exceptional form, taking 35 wickets at 18.57 in his six matches this summer, having taken just 42 wickets in 18 games before this season; it was a meteoric rise for the 23-year-old. While it was all-change in the seam department, England kept Jack Leach as their spin option and there was one change in the struggling batting line-up, Ollie Pope being selected to bat at three (a position he’d never played in first-class cricket). This meant Root could come in at his favoured No 4 slot, with Dan Lawrence losing out.
On an overcast day, Kane Williamson won the toss and chose to bat first, hoping to change a record that had seen his country win just once at the ground in 18 attempts. In his second over, Anderson found the edge of Will Young’s bat and Jonny Bairstow took a brilliant low catch at third slip. Tom Latham gave his wicket to the same pair, but before the game was half-an-hour gone England had a problem of their own when Leach’s diving effort on the boundary resulted in him having to be withdrawn due to concussion protocols; Matt Parkinson replaced him, making his debut for England. When he eventually came on to bowl, he became the first specialist England legspinner to bowl at Lord’s since Ian Salisbury back in 1996.
Broad then got into the action, as Bairstow took his third catch to remove Devon Conway and leave the Kiwis struggling on 7 for three. With his fifth delivery in Test cricket, Potts struck, finding the edge of Williamson’s bat, with Ben Foakes taking the catch to make it 12 for four. Potts followed up with two more wickets to leave the visitors reeling at 39 for six at lunch, while Potts had figures of 8-4-8-3 – a dream start to his career.
After the break, Kyle Jamieson decided to counterattack, but Anderson is far too wily a bowler on a sympathetic surface and had him caught in the deep by Potts. It continued at almost a shot a ball from New Zealand, and the Anderson-Potts combo accounted for Tim Southee for 26. Potts came back and picked up a fourth wicket, before having to leave the pitch in his tenth over, raising fears that yet another England fast bowler might be facing an injury, but fortunately it turned out to be cramp. Stokes replaced him and soon took the final wicket to leave New Zealand all out for 132 in just 40 overs soon after 3pm, with Colin de Grandhomme unbeaten on 42.
Zak Crawley and Alex Lees came out for England to set about building a first-innings lead. There were some frantic early singles, but by tea the hosts were 19 without loss. In the evening, the openers took their partnership past fifty, with Crawley in particularly fluent form. Jamieson then tempted Crawley outside off and he was out driving for 43 out of 59.
At 5.25, England were 75 for one and closing in on a great day, but then Pope was caught behind off Jamieson and suddenly things began to change in a way that was all too familiar as England collapsed in the final hour, losing six wickets for 25. Root steered the ball to gully; Lees, having taken his guard in front of his stumps, was plumb in front; Stokes edged behind; Bairstow dragged one onto his stumps from a poor shot; a terrific bouncer accounted for Potts for a duck. The day ended with England on 116 for seven and the game in the balance.
After plenty of coverage regarding unsold seats and high prices at Lord’s, with top-price tickets on sale for £160, it had been a day of entertainment and drama. But it had also been a day when just 76 overs were bowled, rather than the expected 90. Or, to put it another way, each over cost £2.10 to watch, so lethargic had been the over-rate for both sides – even with the tumble of wickets.
Day Two started with Broad swinging, but Southee sent his leg stump cartwheeling; Southee followed up by inducing the edge from Foakes. Parkinson’s first runs in Test cricket took England into the lead, but soon after they were all out for 141, a lead of just 9 when it could and should have been so much more. The wickets kept falling as Anderson found Young’s edge for 1, then Potts accounted for Williamson for the second time, edging him to Bairstow at third slip, and Latham tickled one to Foakes off Potts to leave New Zealand on 38 for three at lunch. Twenty-three wickets had fallen in four sessions. At this rate, the Saturday crowd seemed unlikely to see much play.
Broad strangled Conway, who gloved one to Foakes to make it 56 for four, but already the conditions seemed to have eased. That brought Tom Blundell to join Daryl Mitchell and to everyone’s surprise there would be no more wickets taken for the rest of the day; by tea they had reached 128 for four. Blundell was the first in the match to go to fifty, in 101 balls, with Mitchell following him soon after, in 97 balls. The hundred partnership came up in 181 balls. Stokes tried some short-pitched stuff, as the ball was doing little in the air or off the pitch, but it was all to no avail. By the close, the partnership had gone beyond 150 and went in with the score on 236 for four, with both men in their nineties. For England, the new ball was one over away, but New Zealand’s lead of 227 already seemed like it might be enough – and they had six wickets to play with.
The fifth ball of Day Three saw Mitchell reach his second Test hundred, in 189 balls. England took the new ball immediately and it wasn’t long before it did its business as Mitchell edged Broad to Foakes on 108. With Broad firing up the crowd, de Grandhomme went wandering out of his crease first ball after an LBW appeal, and Pope threw down the stumps. Then Broad sent Jamieson’s off stump flying to make it three wickets in three balls; suddenly it was 251 for seven. Anderson followed up by trapping Blundell in front for 96. The New Zealand tail threw the bat at a few, but Ajaz Patel was also LBW to Potts and then Parkinson had his first Test wicket when Southee edged him to Root. New Zealand were all out for 285, leaving England to chase 277.
Things got off to a good start for England until Lees left one from Jamieson that came back down the hill and crashed into his stumps. It was the sixth consecutive Test innings he had reached 20, yet his top score in that time was 31. At lunch it was 31 for one. Soon after the break, Crawley edged Jamieson to Southee, who took a great catch at third slip, then Pope was beaten all ends up by Boult, and England were in deep trouble at 46 for three. Bairstow came in positively, which seemed to be the approach of this new set-up, before Jamieson went through a rather large gate in his defences, and it was 69 for four.
On his 31st birthday, skipper Stokes had his work cut out for him if his side were going to win. He decided to use his feet to come down to de Grandhomme, trying to unsettle the all-rounder, but chopped it onto his stumps on 1, only to be reprieved when the delivery was called as a no ball – the best birthday present. De Grandhomme’s day soon went from bad to worse, as he pulled up with an injury that would end his series, leaving New Zealand a bowler short. In those two moments the balance of the game tipped slightly back in favour of the home side, albeit with England still needing almost 200 runs more. By tea, England were 99 for four, with much depending on how close to their target this pair of Root and Stokes could take it.
After tea, Stokes took charge, unleashing some fine shots and the partnership reached fifty off 143 balls. When spinner Patel came on, his second and fourth deliveries were planted into the crowd, before he went to fifty in 106 balls. Sadly, there wasn’t much more as he couldn’t evade a Jamieson bouncer that caught the edge and England were 159 for five. Foakes joined Root and saw England through to the close, by which point Root had reached his fifty in 107 balls. The day ended on 216 for five, with just 61 required.
Many feared that an early wicket could expose England’s long tail, but Foakes was resolute and calm, while Root took charge. The bowling attack could find little movement with the old ball, and conditions favoured the bat more than at any point in the match. When Root reached 88, he had recorded his highest fourth-innings score in Tests. Root’s century came in 157 balls; it was his 26th in all Tests (taking him level with Garry Sobers), his ninth since the start of 2021, his fifth at Lord’s, and his third against New Zealand. It was arguably one of his best, too. Reaching his hundred also meant that Root had become the 14th batter to score 10,000 Test runs, aged 31 years and 157 days – exactly the same age as Alastair Cook when he passed the same mark. By then, England were on the home run, but still some nerves remained among England fans used to bad collapses. In the end, Root and Foakes saw their side home, England winning by five wickets.
After a dark winter on and off the pitch for English cricket, it was just the start to the summer that the players and the fans needed. New Zealand’s resilience and ability to bounce back should not be questioned, however, and they are likely to get better during the series, so everything is nicely set up for Friday’s second Test at Trent Bridge, where Broad will hope to give his home fans something to enjoy. All four of England’s greats – Anderson, Broad, Root and Stokes – had contributed to the win, along with debutant Potts, but there remained questions about the fragility of England’s top order.