A bad week off the pitch threatened to get worse as England’s frail batsmen fluttered their lines in front of a large, rowdy crowd on their favorite ground.
But, with a crisis over historic tweets quickly followed by a traditional battle collapse, at least one of their young guns delivered the entertainment Joe Root promised.
Dan Lawrence was the clear favorite to withdraw from England’s weakened line-up once Ben Stokes returns for the serious business of a run of five tests against India.
Dan Lawrence went some way to save England from the depths of 175 for six with a stylish unbeaten 67
He showed a lot of momentum as he moved on to his third half century in his seventh Test
It was Rory Burns, accompanied by Lawrence, who initially kept the English ship stable
Not now. Not after going some way to save England from the depths of 175 to six with a classy undefeated 67 to send one of the longest tails in recent memory to the relative richness of 258 to seven at the end of the first day of the second Test.
England are not yet out of the mud against a New Zealand side who are still impressive and powerful, despite six changes from the first test, ahead of next week’s World Cup final against India.
But at least they’re on their way to giving the first broadcast of their potential Ashes attack formula – with two real fast bowlers and two more bringing control – something to bowl with on what looks like an excellent Edgbaston field.
It may have been good ground, but there was a lot of movement in the air for New Zealand after Root won the toss, not least for returning Trent Boult and a reserve with plenty of county experience in Matt Henry.
Matt Henry celebrates taking the wicket of England captain Joe Root at Edgbaston
Together they showed that an England team consistently fell short of their simple game plan to show enough application to put big first innings on the board.
There was nothing wrong with the application of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley as a pair of English openers made it through the first session of a home test for the first time since Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss against India at the Oval in 2011.
But when Sibley, who hit all the go-slow at Lord’s on Sunday, who had been criticized so much for England’s lack of set-up, became the first of four wickets to fall in the mid-session, the rambunctious Edgbaston house threatened to collapse .
Zak Crawley seems devoid of all fluency and confidence and his dizzying drop since the extraordinary high of that 267 against Pakistan last summer was capped by his third painfully soft layoff of the series.
It was a failure for Zak Crawley, fired for a duck by Neil Wagner as England collapsed
Root soon followed Crawley and Sibley back to the pavilion after falling on Henry four times
Much, as always, was on the captain’s shoulders, but Root has had the toughest times with the social media storm engulfing his side and looking distracted before playing a loose shot to quickly follow Crawley.
Ollie Pope is also starting to need a score after looking way too hectic again and cutting Ajaz Patel’s left arm spider into Tom Blundell’s gloves, a late call behind the stumps after BJ Watling pulled out with a back problem.
It was Burns, accompanied by Lawrence, who initially held the English ship steady and looked like he would make it into his second century of the series before being undone by a rare form of concentration fishing against Boult.
And the left-armer, such a key part of the New Zealand offense, made a hat-trick as poor James Bracey meekly pushed for his first ball and was out for his second duck in his second Test innings. He hung his head in disbelief at the brutality of it all.
Ollie Pope can’t believe it after being sacked by Ajaz Patel for England’s fourth wicket for 19
About 18,000 spectators attended Edgbaston in Birmingham as part of the pilot eventeven
Lawrence, as befits a gifted but unorthodox batsmen, had his own shaky moments, not least when he shoved two balls from the same Henry over the third man to the line. And when he got a thin edge on Patel at 36, that went in and out of Blundell’s gloves.
But an Essex batter who showed his mental strength in adversity in India over the winter grew in confidence and showed a lot of momentum as he advanced into his third half-century in his seventh Test and his first home.
With him, standing 47 for the seventh wicket, was the unlikely figure of Olly Stone, promoted to eight on his home ground as part of arguably England’s longest tail since Duncan Fletcher was shocked at the sight of Andrew Caddick, Alan Mullally, Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins forming the bottom four against New Zealand at the 1999 Oval.
Costumes were the order of the day for these cavemen in the stands of Edgbaston
These fans came dressed in banana costumes as Edgbaston was allowed to be 70 percent full
There is a method behind England’s seeming madness. As Sports post Thursday revealed that England want to take on Australia with this offensive combination and decided that the depth of strike had to be sacrificed in the name of experimentation.
Not to mention the lack of a spinner on a field where it was Patel’s turn to take two wickets on the first day. Root will give England’s spin, and should be a bit rough here to work with outside of the right-handed off-stump created by Boult and Neil Wagner, as he will in the Ashes.
Stone, with a first-class career average of 15, pretty well cleared himself to make 20 before missing a sweep from Patel, but Mark Wood kept Lawrence company until the end with only the old campaigners in Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, in his record – breaking 162nd Test appearance, coming soon.
It wasn’t enough to justify Root’s attack promise in defense of his team’s tactics at Lord’s, but it was enough to keep a celebratory crowd of 17,000 more than happy. And they will be in ecstasy when England get past 300 on Friday.
With Lawrence standing 47 for the seventh wicket, the unlikely figure of Olly Stone
James Anderson has become England’s most capped test cricketer as he makes his 162nd appearance in the second test with New Zealand at Edgbaston