When New Zealand could have batted for a draw, they went hell for leather on the final day at Lord’s. The same couldn’t be said for England who batted with absolutely zero enthusiasm. In the morning at least, entertaining Test cricket was the order of the day as the visitors took to the crease in no mood to defend. With a 165 run lead from the first innings, the batsmen were keen to turn the pressure onto the bowlers and pile the runs on in the morning sessions.
As it happened, they came up against Ollie Robinson, who took the first three wickets of the day. Despite this, his place in the team for the second Test is far from secure after his social media posts came to light. Opener Tom Latham top-scored with 36 as New Zealand stretched their lead to 273, as captain Kane Williamson bravely declared on 169/6 with 75 overs to play.
One of the more notable statistics that summed up how New Zealand approached this final day, is that Mark Wood has only ever been hit for three sixes in his entire career. Two of them came at Lord’s this morning. When New Zealand play England at this ground, it appears entertainment is at the top of their priority list. Of course, this was the ground where England famously won the World Cup, ‘by the barest of margins’.
This declaration typifies how the visitors want to play the game. In an era where Test cricket is sometimes criticised for being too slow (more on that later), even after Friday was lost to rain, they were desperate to try and find the win. It was risky, and Williamson may not have made the call if Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler were in the England batting line-up, but it provided some brilliant drama. Or so we thought.
England's highest successful run chase at Lord's was when they chased 282 against New Zealand in 2004, and they needed something similar to win this one. Rory Burns, who had dragged England to a respectable total with his 132 in the first innings, made it to 25 before he was excellently caught by Tim Southee, but his performance today will have strengthened his claim for a spot in the Ashes side.
Once he was dismissed, England went into their shell. Dom Sibley took things slowly with the bat, making his fourth Test half-century better for an England side who looked as if they were happy with a draw once they got hold of a bat. In fact, it took Sibley 161 balls, that's the equal seventh slowest half-century by an England opener this century, for him to make his 50 as England made little to no attempt to win the game.
Of course, with Stokes and Buttler missing, England's batting order certainly lacks flair. This line-up contained five men under 25, with one averaging more than 34, but the desire to win the game was the main thing that was missing. England had a whole afternoon to bat and no reason to just settle for a draw.
The fans who gathered to watch that draw will have seen New Zealand’s desire to win the Test match, and England’s lack of belief. To put it lightly, it was perhaps the most boring afternoon of sport of 2021. I had my first Covid-19 vaccination this morning, and even the needle going into my arm provided more excitement than England’s second innings batting display. The only sweet relief came as the bales were taken off with five overs remaining.
Onto the second Test then, when England will certainly have to inject some life into the side after this stale showing.