NASSER HUSSAIN: New Zealand’s Devon Conway played fine innings and made the English bowlers toil on a difficult surface… the first day at Lord’s was a reminder that Test cricket is HARD work
- Devon Conway made a fantastic century to get New Zealand under control on day one
- I would have loved to see Chris Wood go after him with the short ball
- England’s bowlers had to make a challenging shift on a difficult surface
It was a great day to be back. Last year we had test cricket, but that was behind closed doors. on Wednesday at Lord’s there were onlookers and the sun was shining. It felt like summer was here.
Devon Conway played a fine innings, letting the bowlers come to him, hitting his Test debut like he was born. And England’s bowlers performed a challenging shift on a difficult surface.
The whole day had an old-fashioned pace. It’s easy to forget these days, but cricket is about more than fours and sixs. Sometimes it takes a few days for the best drama to unfold.
New Zealand opener Devon Conway scored an assured century on his Test debut
New Zealand will have looked at their opponents’ lineups before the start and realized they had a great opportunity to do something about their mediocre away record against England, Australia and India. And in Conway, they had just the player to make good use of a nice hitting streak.
Tourist coach Gary Stead has talked about choosing character, and somehow New Zealand finds a way to produce these tough cricketers. He had a nice rhythm to his percussion, and he wasn’t afraid to suck up a heavy spell when Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were swinging after lunch.
We’ve seen openers struggle against the new ball all over the world in recent years, but Conway looked natural. I spoke to New Zealand commentator Simon Doull about him before I played and he just said ‘we have another one in the form of Kane Williamson – he strikes long and he beats time.’
I’ve seen a lot of county cricket this summer, and I see a lot of batsmen standing on a stump and being static and somewhat robotic. But Conway hits the center stump, has a smooth play and plays off the ball, opening up several scoring areas.
England fast bowler Mark Wood harassed Conway with short pitches before lunch
Perhaps county batsmen need a different technique when the ball is nibbling. But there’s a lot to be said for leaving it as necessary and letting the bowler come to you. That’s what Conway did so well here.
Could England have done something else? I thought they would have gone up to him with Mark Wood after lunch, because Wood had harassed him about the short stuff before the break. But when Anderson got Williamson right away, that brought Ross Taylor to the center – meaning Root turned to Broad, who has fired him 10 times in Test Cricket.
It meant that by the time Wood returned later in the day for another go to Conway, he already had 70 or 80 under his belt.
I might have wanted to go in with a frontline spinner in Jack Leach too, but that’s the problem England have when Ben Stokes isn’t fit. If Stokes doesn’t play, and Leach does, that means there’s no place for one of the fast-and-nasties – Wood or Olly Stone.
England’s Ollie Robinson threw well on his Test debut and was rewarded with two wickets
And if Root wanted to bowl some solid overs for the second new ball, Stokes would have been the man to bowl them. Instead, the captain tried to get Anderson’s attention, who was staring at his shoelaces. He probably felt like he needed to save his energy for the second new ball. It’s not just that England lack an all-rounder: they lack Stokes.
That said, I thought Ollie Robinson bowled well. The question was always whether he could translate his provincial form into the international arena. Did he have the pinch? But Hove, where he plays for Sussex, isn’t a minefield, and you score an average low twenty for good reason.
He’s tall and he hits the deck hard. Perhaps the only area he struggled with as he went for the wicket was on the left-handers, as he kind of cuts off on his action. I’m surprised he wasn’t warned about running on the field.
But that’s something to work on, and he had good control from the wicket. Still, like the rest of the attack, this was a reminder that testing cricket is hard work – and it’s what it’s supposed to be.
England’s bowlers put in a challenging shift on a difficult surface on day one of the first Test