On Wednesday, we saw three debuts - Devon Conway, Ollie Robinson and James Bracey but it was really Conway and Robinson who made their presence felt on the day one. However, barring Conway’s batting, the English bowlers did make a strong comeback after lunch to crawl things back for the hosts.
Devon Conway adds the breeze to this BlackCaps sail
When two left-handers - Devon Conway and Tom Latham - walked out to bat, it seemed like a bizarre decision to field two left-handers in Lord’s. But for most parts of the first three overs, the two looked home and seemingly were aware of their off-stump and where to leave the delivery. But the more interesting aspect was how Conway had batted on his Test debut, in one of the most challenging conditions in the world. Unlike Latham, Conway took the other route - the aggressive one - to tackle the king-pins of the new-ball, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
During the first hour of play, the Kiwi openers just had a false shot percentage of 17, which showed their technique against the Dukes ball. But more importantly, Conway, who was just making his debut, was more eager to leave a mark, attacking 21% of his shots, according to CricViz. While his average of 63, against right-arm seamers might have been impressive in New Zealand, the fact that he continued with the same approach against two of the best new-ball openers was comprehending.
Tidy innings from Devon Conway on debut. He's showed that range of strokes from white ball cricket that T20 fans know well, scoring all around the ground. A false shot percentage of 20% is streaky, but he's scored briskly enough to warrant the risk. #ENGvNZ pic.twitter.com/i2PFUb1Asn— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) June 2, 2021
In fact, 82% of his shots during the first two hours of the play were controlled and showed that his movement towards attacking the ball was one of the key reasons behind his success. While the short-balls did take a toll on his body, his response, with a majestic pull off the bowling of Mark Wood’s rockets, showed that he wasn’t down to bow. Almost looked like Graham Thorpe had returned to Lord’s with that shot. Till Lunch, he had only left eight deliveries bowled to him, showing that he has indeed added a breeze to the already existing and successful BlackCaps sail. He topped it off with a century, which left New Zealand in a brilliant situation.
The after-lunch effect for the English bowling unit
If New Zealand walked into the lunch session the happier of the two sides, England walked out as the more determined one after lunch. Broad and Anderson were back at it, together, after the lunch but this time more probing and aggressive. First, Anderson went up against Williamson, where he did not just read him like a piece of paper but ensured that the right-hander had absolutely no room to punch anything to the off-side before he pulled it back to force the mistake. Since that moment, Broad too upped his game, against Ross Taylor, in an over of absolute excellence, where he beat the right-hander three times outside the off-stump. Taylor, one of New Zealand’s mainstay batsmen was all over the place, with Broad’s average swing increasing from 0.4 degrees to 1.8 degrees after lunch.
With swing becoming a vital component of the after-lunch session, which in turn, increased the false-shot percentage from 19% to 30%. That saw the back of not only Williamson but also Taylor, who was set up brilliantly by Ollie Robinson, who kept the ball outside the off-stump before darting one to smack the middle and leg. In a session that lasted one hour, England’s bowling was right up there, devastating and threatening the BlackCaps, who had no clue on the ball suddenly doing the talking, with two quick wickets.
Mark Wood’s struggle continues at home
21 May 2015, six years back, Mark Wood made his first appearance, at Lord’s where he picked up three wickets, conceding 93 runs. That was Wood, at his best, raw pace, brimming with confidence and with an accuracy never seen before. His last appearance at the venue was in 2018 against Pakistan, where he accounted for two more wickets. But since 2018, he hasn’t played at the venue, he didn’t feature in the plans for the Ashes and only played in Southampton last year. Back last year, he was inconsistent, conceding 110 runs across innings, with two wickets.
So when Jofra Archer was injured and England announced the squad, it looked highly likely that Wood would return to the setup, against New Zealand. But the question remained, would he be any effective? The Durham man began off the blocks quickly, by that I mean, at a pace that whistled past the helmet of Devon Conway. However, since that early spell against Conway, Wood’s long home struggle continued, with him looking toothless in the other two sessions of the day, conceding runs without picking wickets. How long more for the selectors to consider the likes of Olly Stone and Craig Overton on the bench.
According to Cricviz, his expected average was 50 with only Wally Hammond, Robert Croft, George Geary averaging more than him in the country. And by that, Wood did nothing to improve his already poor home stats, averaging 44.91 from 10 Tests prior to this.