Lesson from Lord's: England had just one but New Zealand five players from the IPL in the first Test

England looked a more cohesive and purposeful team while the Kiwis who completed their engagements in IPL before joining the team in England one by one, disappointed

Lesson from Lord's: England had just one but New Zealand five players from the IPL in the first Test

Vijayan Bala

The first Test between England and New Zealand which concluded at Lord's taught both teams a lot of lessons. The impact of IPL 2022 was evident on both the sides. Let me start with New Zealand - the current World Test Champions.

The New Zealand side has, over the last few years, had a very strong team. The team has been led by Kane Williamson, the brilliant batter and super cool, shrewd tactician. Its batters excel when the chips are down and they are supported by a varied and penetrative bowling attack. Because of its great bench strength, New Zealand has managed to win or draw Test series even when some of their leading players are unavailable.

For the English tour which is in progress, one noticed that members of the New Zealand team kept joining the side only after completing their IPL commitments. In fact, New Zealand had its complete squad only a few days before the first Test. Even its captain, Kane Williamson joined the team late due to the IPL and a family issue. New Zealand failed to realize that for a team to do well, especially in English conditions, it has to be a cohesive unit with all the players at their best. The state of the New Zealand side could be seen from its performance against the County Select X1 - the second and last practice match before the first Test. The Kiwis were comprehensively beaten by 7 wickets and the top order was reduced to 154 for 5 and 19 for 6 in the two innings of that game.

Five of the New Zealand first X1 players were involved in the IPL. The players were skipper Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell, Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Special mention should be made of Trent Boult who bowled well in the first innings despite having reached England a couple of days before the Test. The first Test started on June 2 and Boult had played the IPL final on May 29.

Daryl Mitchell who had landed in England much earlier scored 108 in the second innings of the test putting on 195 for the 5th wicket with Tom Blundell who scored 96. Batters Kane Williamson and Devon Conway failed to live up to their reputations.

I wish to specially mention about Kyle Jamieson, the Kiwi pacer and batter. Jamieson, in his keenness to do well in Tests, gave IPL 2022 a miss. The tall right hander bowled really well in both innings to finish with 2 for 20 and 4 for 79. In England's second innings his bowling put the top English batters under a lot of pressure.

England on the other hand was a side keen to win as it had won only one Test in its last four completed series. England had in Robert Key a new Director of Cricket, a new men's cricket coach in Brendon McCullum and in Ben Stokes a new captain.

England basically went for players - young or old - very keen to play and succeed in Test cricket. Only one player - Jonny Bairstow, who had played in the IPL was given a chance as he performed quite well in his last few Tests. Bairstow failed to impress with the bat though he took some fine catches. On the insistence of skipper Ben Stokes, England brought back its two most outstanding and experienced pacers - James Anderson and Stuart Broad, both of whom had been dropped from the side for the tour of the West Indies earlier this year. Both Anderson and Broad bowled some great spells which showed that they still had a lot to offer.

The English selectors chose some young and talented test players with the hope that they would come good under the new team management. The players were openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, middle order batter Ollie Pope and wicket-keeper batter Ben Foakes. The only one among this lot to impress was Ben Foakes. In addition to keeping well in both innings, Foakes played a crucial knock in England's second innings. Foakes joined Joe Root with England at 159 for 5 needing to get 277 for a win. Foakes scored an unbeaten 32 and put on 120 for the 6th wicket with Joe Root ( 115 not out ) to help England win the test by five wickets. Foakes has clearly established himself as England's first choice test keeper.

England had two debutants at Lord's. The first was the 23- year- old fast medium pacer from Durham- Mathew Potts. Potts bowled beautifully to finish with figures of 4 for 13 and 3 for 55. His match figures were 29.2 overs - 7 maidens - 68 runs and 7 wickets. The talented Potts will be able to develop quickly playing alongside the likes of Anderson and Broad.

The other new cap was the 25 -year- old leg spinner from Lancashire - Mathew Parkinson. Parkinson made his debut as a concussion substitute for left arm spinner Jack Leach who injured himself while fielding almost at the start of the test. Parkinson bowled only in the New Zealand second innings and took the wicket of Tim Southee to end the innings.

Overall, England was a more united and purposeful team. England's keenness to win and positive attitude were the biggest and most noticeable changes one could observe. The present captain Ben Stokes- an all -rounder capable of changing a game either with the bat or ball and former captain Joe Root - one of the best batters the game has seen inspired the others.

It is worth mentioning here that Stokes decided to stay away from the IPL just to concentrate on test cricket. Root was at his best in the fourth innings of the test. Set a fairly difficult target of 277 for a win, England was 69 for 4 when Ben Stokes joined Joe Root. With England's score at 76 for 5 and Stokes on 1, England's captain came charging out and played a Colin de Grandhomme delivery onto the stumps to be bowled. Stokes then got the best birthday gift possible when it was noticed that Grandhomme had bowled a no ball.

Root and Stokes put on 90 for the 5th wicket when Jameison intelligently had Stokes caught behind playing an audacious stroke. Stokes scored 54 inclusive of 5 fours and 3 sixes. It was then that Root started asserting himself. Root and Foakes played quality cricket and put on an unbeaten 120 runs for the 6th wicket, helping England to score a great five wicket win. Root was unbeaten on 115 while Foakes remained 32 not out.

This match-winning fourth innings century by Root was his 26th test hundred. When he reached 100, Root achieved the distinction of scoring 10,000 test runs becoming in the process the second Englishman and the 14th player in the world to achieve this landmark. Alastair Cook was the first English player to achieve this feat.

Finally, one hopes that in the second test that starts on June 10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, the players whom the English selectors have shown faith in live up to expectations and New Zealand, despite the loss of Colin de Grandhomme through injury, play like the current world champions.

( The writer is a well known educationist and sports commentator and author of several books including, " Indian Test Cricket-A Statistical Digest)

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