The Long Room at Lord’s sits deserted for this first Test of the English summer, the members having been locked out to ensure a sterile environment exists for the players as they move between the dressing rooms and the field of play. As such, where Joe Root and Rory Burns might have expected to receive hearty applause, they returned to relative silence at the end of the second day against New Zealand, albeit with no less a sense of satisfaction after ensuring England’s fightback with the ball was not squandered with the bat.
There remains much work left to do but, having kept New Zealand relatively in check at 378 all out through Mark Wood’s three-wicket burst, England’s reply could easily have gone south when Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley disappeared in the first seven overs of the reply and the score read 18 for two.
Such scenarios are not unfamiliar to Root and he and the opener Burns saw out the evening session to reach a more promising 111 for two at stumps. Burns was unbeaten on 59, an encouraging return after being dropped midway through the tour of India, while Root sat eight short of a half-century.
Their 36 overs of defiance was no mean feat either. New Zealand’s attack may be without Trent Boult but, after Devon Conway completed an imperious 200, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson took the new ball with runs on the board and managed to extract more movement than witnessed from England initially.
Jamieson struck first, the 6ft 5in right-armer getting one to nip away off the seam and trap Sibley lbw for a duck.
Crawley’s stay was then all too brief, edging behind on two when suckered into a loose shot, as Southee went wide of the crease, and edging behind. It was a classical piece of swing bowling but also a naive, footwork-free shot for Crawley to be attempting so early in his innings.
By this stage Burns had already enjoyed a touch of fortune, surviving a strong lbw shout from Southee and then the subsequent review on umpire’s call. But for all the left-hander’s quirks he appeared in good order all the same, slotting eight fours with a confidence not seen from him on the subcontinent.
For Root it was a case of overcoming his nemesis from the World Cup final two years ago. Colin de Grandhomme may be sporting a frankly outrageous mullet hairdo these days but his gentle right-arm medium pace remains the thing that confuses the England captain most of all.
It made for a slightly fraught tussle at times, Root still unsure whether to stick or twist as De Grandhomme chugged away. But he will resume on day three buoyed by the 42 runs to his name and the earlier work from his bowlers.
Ensuring New Zealand’s overnight 246 for three did not grow past 400 has kept England in the game, even if Neil Wagner briefly morphed into Brian Lara with an eye-catching unbeaten 25 from No11 and it required a tight run-out to end Conway’s masterpiece and finally shut down proceedings.
Debuts are meant to be riddled with nerves but for the second day running Conway looked utterly serene at the crease. Resuming on 136, the left-hander cruised past WG Grace (152) and KS Ranjitsinhji (154 not out) for the highest score by a Test debutant on English soil, while the pulled six to reach his double-century was a truly magical moment.
Though the question of where Conway’s weakness lies remains unresolved, Wood and Ollie Robinson had managed to induce a collapse at the other end of four wickets for six runs in the morning. In the case of the former, it rather underlined his game-changing attributes on what has been a chiefly benign surface.
Wood’s best work to date has come primarily overseas but here he broke a fourth-wicket stand of 174 between Henry Nicholls and Conway – the former pulling a sharp short-ball to long-leg on 61 – before a fuller length saw BJ Watling edge to slip and Mitch Santner chip to cover. A pair who had utterly crushed English spirits with a stand of 261 at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval in late 2019 were dispatched for one and nought.
In between came Robinson’s removal of De Grandhomme lbw on review for a duck. This represented a sound use of technology by the 27-year-old during a Test debut that has been otherwise dominated by his previous shortcomings here. The Lord’s crowd had earlier met his introduction with gentle applause, rather than scorn for those dreadful teenage tweets.
Robinson’s removal of Jamieson after lunch, caught in the deep, put him one away from five on debut but it was not to be, Stuart Broad grassing Southee at mid-off soon after. Given the previous 24 hours, and the fact Broad went on to finish wicketless for the fifth successive Test innings, the newcomer is unlikely to have raised this at the innings break.
Instead it was Jimmy Anderson who removed the No 10, caught behind to hand James Bracey his first Test dismissal and move to 994 first-class wickets himself, only for Wagner to emerge with mischief on his mind.
He will tell his grandkids about the time he launched Broad for six over long-off to bring up his side’s 350, even if a backfoot driven four off Wood was the pick of his salvo.