Rory Burns, Joe Denly and Ben Stokes all contributed fifties as England followed Joe Root’s plea for patience from the top order on an attritional opening day of the first Test against New Zealand.
In a bid to eliminate the collapses of recent years, England captain Root and head coach Chris Silverwood are aligned on a more watchful approach from their batsmen, but their hard work was nearly undone in Mount Maunganui.
After Burns fell for a streaky 52, Root’s dismissal for two left England precariously placed on 120 for three before Denly (74) and Stokes (67 not out) steadied the ship in a more adventurous final session as the tourists ended the day on 241 for four.
Stokes benefited from being dropped on 63 towards the end of a day where England’s run-rate hovered just above two an over for the majority of it, as New Zealand’s bowlers were able to keep their opponents on a tight leash.
England’s most recent visit to these shores last year saw them embarrassingly skittled for 58 in the first innings of the Test series. While a sluggish surface at the Bay Oval – hosting its first Test – saw the medium-fast pace of Colin De Grandhomme prosper, Root has demanded more toil from his batsmen and settled for making hard runs over flashy but irrelevant contributions. Denly and Stokes cut loose towards the end of the day but, up until around the 70-over mark, England’s run-rate was just above two an over.
There was some mild bemusement as Jofra Archer whizzed around on a Segway belonging to Sky New Zealand during the warm-ups. That led to a little speculation on social media that the stunt was ill-advised because of the injury that could have befallen the paceman had he fallen off. As it turned out, it injected some relief to proceedings minutes before the start of play.
I thought I missed it by a country mile but apparently I didn'tRory Burns
Burns contributed a scratchy half-century but probably would have been out on 10 had New Zealand opted to query an appeal for caught behind. Burns clearly felt he was nowhere near the ball but Hot Spot indicated otherwise, with a faint edge detected.
Hitting first ball in Test cricket for England for 4 since 1978:— Andrew Samson (@AWSStats) November 20, 2019
D Gower 1978
A Lamb 1982
A Stewart 1990
D Cork 1995
R Johnson 2003
C Woakes 2013
D Sibley 2019#bbccricket
Sibley’s reputation as a blocker precedes him on the county circuit, so there was a little surprise when he clipped his first delivery in Test cricket to the midwicket boundary after Trent Boult had over-pitched. While he became only the seventh English batsman to register a four from his opening ball in the longest format, his next 21 were dots.
The first Test continues with day two on Friday, where England will hope their regularly-strong middle order can push them towards a total closer to 400, a target they have rarely reached over recent years.