LONDON — When England crumbled to 30 for four on Thursday morning in the first Test against New Zealand, their captain Alastair Cook would have been a worried man.
Buffeted by weeks of off-field controversy in which coach Peter Moores was sacked and the Kevin Pietersen non-selection saga took centre stage, England took the field in bad shape.
A hapless first hour in which Cook, Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell failed to withstand the New Zealand pace attack potentially set the tone for a summer of struggle with the Ashes series to come.
But Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali had other ideas.
The quartet posted half-centuries to lift England to a total of 389, laying the foundation for a recovery which brought about a famous victory in an enthralling match.
New Zealand batted well to reply with 523 but Cook had the bit between his teeth.
The captain occupied the crease all day on Sunday to make 153 not out and combined with Root’s 84 and an inspired 101 from Stokes, the quickest ever Test century at Lord’s, England moved into the ascendancy at 429 for six.
Trent Boult knocked over the last four wickets inside the first hour on the final day, but England had made a statement and their bowlers backed it up.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad reduced New Zealand to 12 for three and Stokes made a devastating contribution with the ball by dismissing Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum with successive deliveries. Spirited resistance from BJ Watling and Corey Anderson proved temporary and Moeen’s superb catch at third man to dismiss Boult sealed a 124-run victory for England.
“It’s been a real team effort this week. It’s been a rocky few weeks so to play with such freedom and passion. The lads are pleased with that,” Cook said.
It was a rocky few weeks indeed.
With speculation swirling that Australian Trevor Bayliss is poised to be appointed coach ahead of his compatriot Jason Gillespie, the saga continued on Monday.
But on the field Cook and his team laid down a marker ahead of the Ashes.
With the captain back in the runs, Root a flexible and reliable presence in the middle order and the exciting Stokes established at number six, England have a batting order of substance.
Although the pace bowling attack certainly lacks variety, it has the heart and fire to ask questions of the Australians in what promises to be an intriguing Ashes series. — Reuters.
How the Test Unfolded
• England collapse to 30-4 on the first morning after being sent in to bat.
• Joe Root leads the revival with a fluent 98 and Ben Stokes blasts a stroke-laden 92. Jos Buttler makes 67 and Moeen Ali 58 as England score 389.
• Martin Guptill makes 70 and Tom Latham 59 as New Zealand make a solid start to their reply.
• Kane Williamson’s patient 132 is the backbone of the innings. Ross Taylor contributes 62, Brendon McCullum a quick-fire 42 and BJ Watling 61 not out as New Zealand amass 523.
• Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance fall early, but Alastair Cook and Ian Bell guide England to 74 for two at the close of play on Saturday.
• Bell falls in the first over on Sunday, but Cook digs in and Root makes another vital 84.
• Stokes steals the show in the afternoon with a brilliant century off 85 balls, the fastest ever scored in a Test at Lord’s.
• Cook bats all day to finish on 153 not out and England are 429 for six at the close, 295 runs ahead.
• New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult takes four early wickets on Monday including Cook for 162 to dismiss England for 478, leaving the touring side needing 345 for victory.
• England’s James Anderson removes Guptill with the second ball of the innings, Stuart Broad traps Latham and Ross Taylor lbw to leave New Zealand reeling at 12 for three.
• Williamson and Watling lift the Kiwis to 61 for three.
• Stokes dismisses Williamson for 27 and McCullum first ball to give England the scent of victory again.
• Watling and Corey Anderson share a sixth-wicket partnership of 107 to revive New Zealand hopes of saving the match.
• Mark Wood removes Watling for 59 and Root traps Anderson for 67 in the final session as England close on victory again.
• New Zealand slump to 198-9 but last-wicket pair Matt Henry and Boult survive for eight overs.
• Boult carves Stuart Broad over the slips and Moeen makes a sensational diving catch at third man to seal victory for England.
• 1 610 runs were scored in the match, the highest ever total in a Test at Lord’s. — Reuters