London: In the curtain-raiser to an action-packed English summer of international cricket, New Zealand stole the show by limiting England to a plodding 160-4 on the first day of the first Test at Lord's.
The stage was set for England to show their true colors on Thursday, with the team back at full strength, at cricket's HQ, and desperate to rectify for a humbling series draw in New Zealand two months ago. Captain Alastair Cook won the toss, and elected to bat while there was a premature outbreak of summer.
But Cook's decision was also the preference of New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, who wanted to bowl and guided his battery to an unrelenting stranglehold on England. England needed 26 overs to reach 50, 50 overs to make 100, and 73 to see 150. It was far from riveting. By stumps, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who foiled the Kiwis with 179 and 68, respectively, in a warmup game last weekend, were 25 and 3 not out.
England hadn't lost many wickets, but to score so slowly in 80 overs, 30 of which were maidens, was as damaging as being bowled out for 167 on the first day of the series in New Zealand. That made the overwhelmingly favored English begin to doubt themselves, and fired up what was a shaky Black Caps side. That inspiration hasn't left them.
Applying constant pressure with disciplined bowling and tight, energetic fielding, New Zealand found swing as the day greyed over, lights came on after tea, and showers passed through. Rain ended play with 10 overs left.
Trent Boult picked up the wickets of Cook (32) and Jonathan Trott (39), and fellow seamers Tim Southee and Neil Wagner soon warmed up. At the other end, spinner Bruce Martin, the last man to make the 11 with New Zealand unchanged for a third straight Test, tied up England with unexpected savvy and turn.
Martin, ironically, made the first breakthrough, grabbing the only wicket of the first session. He frustrated Nick Compton into a wild swipe to point, where Southee made a diving, two-handed catch. Compton was out for 16 off 62 balls, none reaching the boundary.
Soon after, Martin should have had Jonathan Trott out before he'd scored, but the ball flew between his arms. Still, Cook lived on borrowed time after lunch, barely surviving Boult in a review before he made two more runs then nicked a third edge behind off Boult to trudge off for 32 off 92 balls at 67-2. It's the third time in four Tests he's fallen to the left-armer.
Trott and Ian Bell threatened to take the initiative from New Zealand, until their stand of 45 was undone three overs before tea. Boult was reintroduced by McCullum for his fourth stint and immediately struck. Trott, who averaged 56 in New Zealand, sent a thick edge to third slip, where Brownlie made a brilliant catch.
Bell, 31 off 133 balls, was the only wicket to fall after tea, again at the death. Just two overs before play ended, the tireless Wagner induced Bell to nibble outside off and the glance was pouched by BJ Watling. Bell and Root had also combined for 45.