YORKSHIRE’S Joe Root hailed a “fantastic effort” from England after helping them stage a superb recovery on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand.
England looked in all sorts of trouble when they were reduced to 30-4 after being put into bat at Lord’s, but their middle order of Root (98), Ben Stokes (92), Jos Buttler (67) and Moeen Ali (49no) helped the hosts finish the day on 354-7.
It would have been even better for Alastair Cook’s men but for the dismissal of Buttler off the final delivery of the day, trapped lbw by Trent Boult, but Root was nevertheless a happy man at the close.
The Sheffield-born batsman said: “Fantastic effort from the lads. If at 12 o’clock you’d have said this was the score at the end of the day, we’d have snatched your hand off. I thought the partnerships we built throughout the innings were fantastic. I thought the way that Ben came in and played from the start took a lot of pressure off me at the other end.”
Click on the video above to watch Ben Stokes discuss the first day’s play at Lord’s
The fifth-wicket stand of 161 between Root and Stokes helped change the face of the game, with the duo scoring at more than five runs an over as they took the attack back to the Black Caps.
Root admitted it was a conscious decision to go on the offensive, saying: “We just went out there with the mentality of trying to counter-attack. We thought they’ve been very aggressive at us, there was plenty of gaps and opportunities to score, and that’s what we were going to do.
“We knew that we were in trouble so we wanted to make sure we were busy, assertive in the way we played, and we really tried to put them back under pressure as much as we could, and once we got going it was very hard to stop us scoring before lunch.”
Regarding his own score, which continued his impressive form on this ground for England, Root – this week named England cricketer of the year – said: “I’m very pleased with the way I played.
“I was lucky to have someone like Ben at the other end who was playing so freely as well.”
Root and Stokes went just two and eight, respectively, from their hundreds. They rarely took a backward step in a calculated counter-attack against seam-and-swing trio Tim Southee, Boult and debutant Matt Henry (3-93).
Root was quickest to his half-century – his seventh in his last nine Test innings – from 53 balls, and he went on to within one more shot of his third hundred at this venue in successive years before going after a wide one from Henry and edging behind to stand-in wicketkeeper Tom Latham.
New Zealand-born Stokes provided England’s impetus after lunch with a string of commanding boundaries, often on-drives and fierce pulls – one for six off Henry into the Mound Stand, to go with 15 fours – before missing out on a second Test century.
He left a straight one from off-spinner Mark Craig to be bowled off-stump when a deserved hundred, and a few more too, was in his sights – but by then he had done a fine job.
Root’s reliability, in evidence amid England’s difficulties in all formats in recent times, was vital again.
Cook and debutant Adam Lyth made an encouraging fist of the earliest exchanges on a day when the ball swung throughout, but especially at first. Southee then did Yorkshire’s Lyth with a variation, though, moving down the slope for a feint edge behind.
Lyth’s Headingley colleague Gary Ballance was determined to play from deep in his crease, but pushed out in front of his pads for a low edge to third slip after Boult switched to the pavilion end.
Then it was over to the pace of first-change Henry. Cook took on a bouncer but edged his attempted pull behind, and then Ian Bell was bowled by a very good ball which beat the defensive push on the outside and clipped the off bail – a third wicket for the addition of just five runs.
Root had an escape just before lunch on 36, when umpire’s call kept him in the game after Craig turned one against the gradient to beat an attempted sweep and hit the back leg.
After Stokes’s error against Craig, it was Buttler (67) who then helped Root put on another 60 until England’s new vice-captain departed in anti-climax during a disciplined spell from Henry.
Against an older ball, Buttler contributed an admirable half-century and then shared a partnership of 103 with Moeen Ali.
It was England’s day, even after Boult had Buttler lbw to the last ball of the day as the hosts had lost just three wickets for 324 in more than 77 overs.
Chris Waters on Adam Lyth’s Test debut: Page 23.