It took a man called Devon from South Africa to puncture England’s new-season optimism on Wednesday with a classically made century on Test debut for New Zealand.
Devon Conway was superb as New Zealand showed just how they have reached the World Test Championship final against India at the expense of both England and Australia.
And his unbeaten 136 in New Zealand’s 246 for three on a slow burner of a day’s Test cricket left England already chasing the first of seven games this season Joe Root hopes will serve as perfect preparation for the Ashes.
Devon Conway had the perfect Test debut as he scored a brilliant century at Lord’s
Conway hit an unbeaten 136 to put New Zealand in control as they finished the day on 246-3
James Anderson celebrates taking the prize wicket of Kane Williamson at Lord’s
There was more delight for England debutant Ollie Robinson as he dismissed Ross Taylor
Debutant Ollie Robinson celebrates his first wicket in Test cricket as England broke through
The Lord’s stage was set in the sunshine in front of a returning crowd of 6,500 for one of England’s two debutants in Ollie Robinson and James Bracey to make their mark.
But while Robinson, on the pitch at least, had a day to savour, the newcomer stealing the show was a 29-year-old who headed to Wellington from his home in Johannesburg ‘for an adventure’ five years ago.
That ‘adventure’ led to qualification for his adopted country through residency for a batsman who made a double hundred in his last game for Gauteng and on Wednesday became the first man to make a century on Test debut for New Zealand in England.
How well Conway played, too. He was twice struck on the shoulder early on the first day of the first Test by the rapid pace of Mark Wood, whose first over was the quickest on average, peaking at 95mph, by any Englishman since records began in 2006.
Anderson (left) celebrates with Zak Crawley and James Bracey after taking his wicket
Williamson was hoping to improve his previous returns at Lord’s but was bowled for 13
New Zealand put on 58 for the first wicket before Tom Latham chopped on to his stumps
Robinson will hope Latham is the first of many wickets as he is congratulated by team-mates
Opener Latham can only watch in dismay after a hefty inside edge splattered his stumps
Stuart Broad reacts to a close shave as New Zealand made a strong start to the opening Test
England were made to toil as New Zealand’s openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway scored freely during the morning session
TOP SPIN AT THE TEST
By Lawrence Booth at Lord’s
Debutant Devon Conway’s unbeaten 136 is the highest score by a New Zealand opener at Lord’s, beating Stewie Dempster’s 120 back in 1931. It’s also the highest score by a visiting opener here since 2015, when Australia’s Chris Rogers hit 173.
Conway, who is originally from Johannesburg, is the 12th South African-born player to make a century on Test debut. And he is the sixth of the 12 to achieve the feat for a country other than South Africa.
He is also the first batsman of any nationality to score a century on his Test debut at Lord’s since England wicketkeeper Matt Prior against West Indies in 2007. Only two other non-England players have achieved the feat: India’s Sourav Ganguly in 1996 and Australia’s Harry Graham, way back in 1893.
In his first over, Mark Wood averaged 93.4mph. According to CricViz, that’s the fastest opening over by an England bowler in Tests since these things were first measured in 2006.
England failed to pick a specialist spinner for a home Test for the first time since 2012, leaving captain Joe Root to get through 12 overs of his part-time off-spin.
Far from being daunted Conway rose to the challenge, always gritty and occasionally with a flash of panache typified by the expansive flick off his legs to the boundary off Robinson that brought his century off 163 balls.
Conway raised both hands in the air as he took the applause of the grateful spectators back at the home of cricket – and a New Zealand balcony that, somewhat surreally, included former long-standing England general manager Phil Neale, out of retirement to assist the Kiwis throughout their tour.
Only when Conway, on 77, almost fell into the trap set by England when he flicked Robinson through the gap between Bracey and Root at leg gully did he look vulnerable.
And only when Conway top edged Wood just over the gloves of the diving Bracey on 103 did he offer any semblance of a chance.
It was tough on Bracey, who kept more than adequately after being thrust into the role by a freak injury to Ben Foakes and almost pulled off a smart stumping off Root when Henry Nicholls was on 28.
But the England debutant who looked most at home was Robinson, named as one of four seamers ahead of Craig Overton by an England side left unbalanced by the absence of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes.
Robinson had spoken confidently ahead of the match about his plans for the New Zealand top four. And, after starting with a no-ball, just as a certain Jimmy Anderson had here on his debut in 2003, he purposefully went about carrying them out.
The Sussex seamer roared with triumph when he bowled Tom Latham, with the help of an inside edge, with the last ball of his fourth over. And he was equally animated when he trapped Ross Taylor plumb in front for his second wicket.
A shot by Tom Latham evades the dive of Zak Crawley in the slip cordon on the opening day
But a day to remember had some gloss taken off it when it emerged that someone, somewhere had found some tweets the 27-year-old sent in 2012 that did not exactly sit comfortably with the anti-discrimination stance taken by the players ahead of play.
It was not the easiest day for the rest of the England attack either. Coach and new selection supremo Chris Silverwood had long felt that England would have to go into this first of two matches against the Kiwis without their specialist spinner in Jack Leach.
But the sunshine that suddenly appeared before this Test made Silverwood and Root wait until Wednesday morning before they finally decided the captain’s off-spin would be sufficient at a ground where slow bowling has rarely in modern times made much of a mark.
It would be easy to criticise that move with hindsight but the pitch was flat and, with New Zealand batting after winning the toss, it is unlikely the absence of Leach will have too much of an impact as the Test goes on.
James Anderson reacts as England’s all-seam attack struggled to make inroads on day one
Anderson and the England slip cordon appeal unsuccessfully for the wicket of Tom Latham
England captain Joe Root converses with James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad
Certainly England were not going to make the mistake of leaving Stuart Broad out of a home Test again, as they did at the start of last year’s series against West Indies.
Instead there was the familiar sight of Broad, vice-captain in the absence of Stokes, opening the bowling with his old strike partner Anderson and both champions did everything they could to make inroads into a stubborn New Zealand batting line-up.
Yet only Anderson, on his record-equalling 161stTest appearance, had any tangible success when he claimed the key wicket of Kiwi captain and the top ranked Test batsman in the world Kane Williamson with the fourth ball after lunch.
Williamson, with two double centuries and a hundred in his last four Test innings, has made an art out of playing the ball late. But here it proved his downfall as he tried to play his trademark stroke to third man and inside edged onto his stumps.
It was the 993rdfirst-class wicket of Anderson’s extraordinary career, 615 of them coming for England with seemingly plenty more to come as he shows no sign of slowing down as he approaches his 39thbirthday.
The opening day of the Test match summer saw 6,500 spectators watching on inside Lord’s
Lord’s capacity has been capped at 25 per cent for the five days of the New Zealand Test
Those fortunate enough to secure a ticket had to observe social distancing in the stands
England could do with a few of them coming today if they are not to concede a formidable total to a New Zealand side proving they can prosper away just as they have at home in their successful run that has taken them to that final at the Ageas Bowl this month.
Ominously, 15 of the last 23 Lord’s Tests have been won by the side batting first and New Zealand have given themselves every chance of making it 16 out of 14.
Even the second new ball was not enough to halt an unbroken stand of 132 for the fourth New Zealand wicket between Conway and Nicholls on a day that belonged emphatically to the visitors.
In particular for a batsman in Conway whose Kiwi adventure has extended to a remarkable day at Lord’s.
The two teams lined up pre-match in a stand against all forms of discrimination in cricket
The family of Captain Sir Tom Moore; Colin, Hannah, Benjie and Georgia Ingram-Moore ring the five-minute bell on the Lord’s outfield