| 4.5°C Belfast

James Anderson admits Ed Sheeran visit helped lift mood in England dressing room

The pop star popped into chat to both teams on day two of the first Test.

Ed Sheeran was a left-field contender for England’s highlight of a rainy day in Auckland.

James Anderson already had a moment to savour when he had New Zealand’s record-breaking batsman Kane Williamson lbw at Eden Park.

But pop star Sheeran also made an unexpected bid to lighten the mood in the England camp when, on a surprise visit to watch day two of the pink-ball Test, he popped into both dressing rooms.

After a succession of heavy showers restricted play to just 23.1 overs, in which Williamson (102) went past team-mate Ross Taylor and all-time great Martin Crowe with 18 centuries to their 17 each, Anderson recalled both Sheeran’s unscripted meet and greet and the moment he finally dismissed the New Zealand captain.

There has been little cheer here so far for England after they collapsed to a hapless 58 all out on day one of this series opener and have then been powerless to stop the Kiwis moving to 229 for four in reply.

The arrival of Sheeran provided a welcome distraction, though, as he relaxed before his sold-out concert in town on Saturday night.

Anderson had the sliding doors misfortune to miss the chance encounter with the global superstar – born close to his own home town Burnley, across the Roses divide of the South Pennines in West Yorkshire.

But speaking on behalf of his team-mates, he said: “(It was) brilliant, yes.

“I didn’t actually see him – the lads did. A few of them chatted to him for a while. It was nice, especially after a couple of average days, to meet someone of his calibre.”

Anderson confirmed several of Sheeran’s hits are on England’s team playlist.

“There are a few songs (of his) there and it was nice of him to come in and chat to the guys,” he added. “There are a lot of big fans in there.”

Anderson (three for 53) also alleviated England’s struggles a little with the wicket of Williamson – a player he unsurprisingly admires.

“Right now, he’s up there with the best in the world,” he said.

“I think he’s got a brilliant gameplan, is good technically, good in all conditions and all forms of the game.

“There’s not many around (like him) at the minute in world cricket.”

England’s best hope of emerging from this match without adding to their already unenviable away record of late in Tests surely rests with the forecast of more bad weather.

Reflecting on the previous day’s embarrassing collapse, number 11 Anderson said: “I can’t remember experiencing an hour like that before.

“We’ve got to try and work very hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“(But) we have to keep believing we can save (this match) – because if we don’t have belief there’s no point turning up.”

Williamson has much more reason for optimism, but is not one to get ahead of himself.

There was an element of self-reproach, in fact, at failing to consolidate after the historic century which puts him statistically ahead of national hero Crowe at the age of just 27.

He said: “Martin was a fantastic, world-class player for New Zealand – our best player, batsman certainly, of all time – and the respect is certainly there for Martin and what he did for the game.

“For me personally I’ve never focused too much on stats.

“It’s been about doing my best for the team, and that’s why today it was frustrating to not still be out there (although) it was a fairly good delivery.”