They have been used to freak cricket happenings in this part of the world, but as spectators filtered in after a thrilling first day of this third Test between England and New Zealand, many were no doubt still calculating the one of five dismissals they had had. witness.
The Tourists had closed on 225 for five on – shock – 90 overs as Daryl Mitchell continued a personally golden streak with an unbeaten 78 on 159 balls. But it was the right-handed role in the death of Henry Nicholls in a cup of tea that had eyes rubbed in disbelief and Jack Leach, whose career was marked by misfortune, wondering if his own worm had maybe turned.
New Zealand had 123 points from four, Nicholls having worked their way up to 19 with just one more to negotiate before a break, when Ben Stokes increased his field to encourage the big shot. His brand could not resist. But although Nicholls apparently had enough on a thunderous straight, the ball ricocheted off Mitchell’s bat at the non-attacking end and blew the easiest of catches to Alex Lees halfway through.
England could hardly believe their luck, while New Zealand were at least equipped to deal with their lack. After losing the World Cup final in 2019 partly because of that famous rogue deflection of the bat from Stokes, it was almost de rigueur. Mitchell had the form and confidence to reach the stumps, elevating his half-century after tea with a booming six from Leach and forging another steadfast alliance with Tom Blundell who added 102 unbroken runs and saw the latter reach 45 steps.
Stokes had some regrets. He lost two crits and failed to send an lbw against Mitchell upstairs when he had eight; Hawk-Eye showed he hit the middle stump halfway through and would have made it 97 for five in the 47th, while giving Matt Potts the wicket his effort deserved. Ben Foakes, convinced the ball was sliding down the leg as Mitchell missed a whip from his pads, proved wrong.
Overall, however, it was a largely positive performance from England as they continue to ride the wave of energy that has spread since the appointment of Stokes and Brendon McCullum as head coach. and put them 2-0 up going into that series finale.
Among those who clearly appreciate the new regime is Stuart Broad and, after announcing the day before the match that he and his fiancee, Mollie King, were expecting their first child, his last day at 35 ended with figures two for 45. Broad was leading the offense in the absence of Jimmy Anderson. And while the second new ball didn’t produce a late breakout, he delivered overall, taking off opener Tom Latham in the first inning of the day and taking out Kane Williamson with a pre-lunch peach.
There was also a first wicket for Jamie Overton on his first day as a Test cricketer, with the fast Surrey bowler receiving his cap from twin brother Craig in the group first and knocking down the dangerous Devon Conway on an inside edge after lunch. This raised the question of whether anyone had ever fired a batter with the same first name as his birth county, but you’ll have to excuse a lack of research here.
Overton seemed an uncomfortable proposition on his first outing, all things considered, generating speeds in the 80s from his hulking 6-foot-5 frame and hitting the bat splice hard. Leach, his former Somerset team-mate, could also reflect on an encouraging performance, sending 30 overs for 75 runs, finding some of the drift that proved elusive in Nottingham and picking up two wickets.
Strike first was the obvious decision when Williamson, recovered from the Covid-19 fight which saw him miss Trent Bridge, correctly called the draw: the sun was up, the weekend forecast a bit uncertain and the surface seemed abundant. However, there was an early offer for Broad, and just six balls into the proceedings, Williamson headed for the crease after Latham went on a tour to rank alongside David Warner’s Ashes comebacks in 2019.
The dismissal could easily have been a replay from three years ago too: Broad coming from around the wicket, inducing a half-hearted nudge from a southpaw and seeing the edge fly until the first slip. Broad might have taken Williamson out for a duck, a glove on his leg narrowly avoiding the sprawling Foakes, but instead had to settle for the right-handed wicket on the 31st when he set up a fine leg cutter which this time found the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Meanwhile, Leach had knocked out Will Young lbw for 20 with his first delivery – the ball dipping right-handed and gripping enough to recover – and New Zealand went for lunch on 65 for three. Nicholls had joined Conway but had nearly left in the early afternoon when he was hit in front by Potts and Stokes being reviewed. Aleem Dar, the third referee, felt compelled to stick with his colleague on the field’s decision due to a lack of conclusive evidence that the bat was not involved.
At the other end, Conway enjoyed the attacking fields established by Stokes and displayed wonderful training. But when the No. 4 fell on a late Overton swing on the 26th, and Nicholls then saw 99 graft balls end oddly, it took the calm heads of Mitchell and Blundell to dig the New Zealand out of a hole, seeing off the second new ball after a short delay of rain and leaving it the honors even.