In the days of Richard Hadlee, the New Zealand attack was compared by Graham Gooch to ‘the World XI on one side and Ilford 2nds on the other’. If that felt harsh on Ilford 2nds, then things have moved on.
Today it looks more like the World XI on both sides, and maybe even after the first bowling change.
Trent Boult, who has 281 Test wickets to his name, did not even play at Lord’s after requesting a trip home to see his family after a spell with the IPL. Yet his absence still left New Zealand with three bowlers who could all have kept Hadlee decent company.
New Zealand ticked all the boxes and showed they are the complete outfit in Lord’s draw
Tim Southee quietly took six wickets in the first innings to break his own record for his country’s best figures at Lord’s, while Kyle Jamieson’s back-of-a-length meanness, propelled by a 6ft 8in frame, left him unbeaten.
Built like a lock forward, it has the accuracy of an accountant.
Neil Wagner was all over Dom Sibley before tea on Sunday, without ever resorting to his stereotypical stereotype.
And his outburst of emotion at turning down Joe Root when the game ended in a draw told of a man who competes as naturally as others breathe.
Even Colin de Grandhomme, whose mullet might provoke thoughts of a funny figure, asks to be taken seriously. His match figures read 22-8-36-0, meaning England had no easy outlet. If spinner Mitchell Santner isn’t Dan Vettori, then he also had his moments outside the southpaw’s stump.
Of course, this will only come as a surprise if you haven’t gone beyond the 1980s. New Zealand reached the top of the Test rankings earlier this year (since displaced by India) and will soon face the Indians in the World Test Finals in the Ageas Bowl.
But for Friday’s washout, they could have easily won this match.
Tim Southee was the pick of a very strong bowling formation, taking six wickets in the first innings
The sailor made sure the visitors didn’t miss this week’s protagonist Trent Boult at Lord’s
And based on this evidence, who would be against becoming the first World Testing Champion? After all, unlike India, their batsmen have had two matches to acclimate to the English seam and swing, and their bowlers have had time to get used to the unique properties of the Dukes ball.
It will be India, whose last three test trips through England have seen 11 defeats and two wins, that could start as an underdog.
New Zealand’s punching power was reflected in the ease with which they coped with a rare double bust from their captain Kane Williamson.
The common wisdom is to describe him as a cut above his teammates, just as Root towers above his – especially in a side without Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.
But the three other regulars of New Zealand’s top five – Tom Latham, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls – are all in their 40s on average, while wicketkeeper BJ Watling and all-rounder De Grandhomme are in their late 30s. Devon Conway, meanwhile, has just scored 200 in his first Test innings.
Devin Conway led a very strong batting order and looked confident on his Test match debut
Kane Williamson’s batting lineup resembles Andrew Strauss’s all-conquering side of 2010
Both in their stats and the stage of their evolution, this New Zealand squad resembles the England team that triumphed in Australia in 2010-11, when each of Andrew Strauss’ top seven had an average of at least 40, and their game knew through and through.
Only Graeme Swann’s off-breaks give England an edge over Williamson’s Kiwis. But there is little in it.
It is also unlikely that Strauss would have gambled as Williamson did with a lunch statement that required England 273 in 75 overs.
New Zealand arrived here with questions about their previous match at Lord’s – the 2019 World Cup final, with its cruelty and heartbreak – and pretended those questions were brazen.
There may even have been a hint of condescension about the comparison facing England. Stokes and Buttler, the batsmen who ran away to contest that super more than two summers ago, were missing, and Williamson may have guessed there was little danger of defeat.
If so, he’d finish a match New Zealand had under control with the moral high ground, as well as knowing his opponents have more problems to solve before Thursday’s second test in Edgbaston. The Indians of Virat Kohli may conclude that they also have a problem.
The Kiwis can enter their final with India in the Ageas Bowl as favorites to become champions