VENUE: LORD’S, LONDON
RESULT: ENGLAND WON BY 124 RUNS
MAN OF THE MATCH: BEN STOKES
Riding on the brilliance of Ben Stokes and Alastair Cook, England scripted a miraculous win against New Zealand on the fifth day of the first Investec Test. The hosts were down and out at one stage on the third day and had absolutely no chance of making any sort of comeback. But then, when Cook had his back to the wall, he fought back hard like a warrior obsessed with the urge to win. Cook was simply remarkable and led by example.
This test was the perfect advertisement for Test cricket. Within the first hour, England was reduced to 30-4. Joe Root and Ben Stokes counterattacked brilliantly to take England to 389. Another positive for England was the batting of Moeen Ali. You cannot ask for anything more if your number 8 contributes an aggregate of 101 runs in the match.
New Zealand began emphatically and were aggressive from the word go. Kane Williamson played a class innings and with four half centurions, New Zealand managed a lead of 134 runs. Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood shared 3 wickets apiece.
On the third evening, England was headed for a calamity when they ended on 74-2. Till that moment, Alastair Cook was being portrayed as the villain of England cricket and behind Pietersen’s infamous ouster from the setup. Cook was even termed as a “boring” individual by Shane Warne and Ian Chappell. Little did his critics know that Cook was about to prove them wrong.
Cook was simply resilient and played like his good old self in the second innings. He reminded viewers of his knock of 235* against Australia at the Gabba. Once again it was a ton in the third innings of a test match which displayed Cook’s form. While Cook was looking gracious with his stroke play, it was the glitzy knock of Ben Stokes which was the knockout punch for New Zealand. Stokes was care free and was there to enjoy himself. 101 off 92 while trying to build on the second innings lead is phenomenal indeed. Stokes has surely made it crystal clear that he is the “next big thing” for England.
New Zealand needed to bat out 77 overs to save the game. Knowing McCullum, he should have gone for the chase and opened the innings. But that was not to be. The visitors lost their openers without any run on the board. Williamson resisted but was well trapped. There is a serious concern for Ross Taylor. His form has dipped big time. The former captain surely needs to find his rhythm back before it’s too late.
McCullum was dismissed on the first ball he faced by Ben Stokes. With half the side dismissed in 23.5 overs, New Zealand was truly out of the game. Watling though raised hopes when he stood like a wall against England. He was finally dismissed for 59 by Wood, on a delivery which bounced a little more than what the batsman anticipated. A tough call for Corey Anderson was the final nail in the coffin. The tailenders did not show a lot of fight and were all out for 220 in 67.3 overs.
New Zealand as a side has been brilliant since the last 18 months. But today, they were just mediocre. Their top order couldn’t survive the new ball and was blown away. If New Zealand is to excel further, then they need to win tests overseas. Without that, they cannot achieve the ultimate success.
England on the other hand, has made a strong in-the-face statement by winning extraordinarily. Just before the Ashes, they have sent a stern message to Australia of not taking them lightly. Cook was the lone warrior for England when they defeated India in India in 2012. It was a dream series for Cook when he made 3 back to back tons. This knock too could have sparked his revival in test cricket.
All in all, an exciting second test at Headingley awaits the viewers.