England in New Zealand: Ben Stokes hits 67 not out on opening day of first Test
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By Amy Lofthouse
England batted themselves into a place on the opening day of their first Test against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui.
Three of the tourists’ top five compiled half-centuries as England closed on 241-4.
Ben Stokes struck on a New Zealand attack with a 67 that was unbeaten after fifties from Rory Burns and the platform was laid by Joe Denly.
2-28 was taken by colin de Grandhomme for the hosts.
England have become notorious for batting collapses in recent times but this was a way.
Captain Joe Root was the only member of the order to not reach double figures, while debutant opener Dom Sibley triumphed at – but did not reveal – his character in a gritty 22.
Ross Taylor initially slide late in the day droped on 63 stokes but he found England through the close in New Zealand’s North Island, along with Ollie Pope who left a sparky 18.
England were hammered about the day of the series for 58, but Denly in particular showed.
Only 30 runs came in the first ten overs and once an aggressive shot had been performed – like 24-year-old Sibley cutting on his very first ball to the mid-wicket border – it was a consequence of the bowlers straying away line, as opposed to a speculative shot against the batsmen.
The strategy worked to a degree. Burns’ half-century out of 135 balls had been his slowest in Test cricket, while Denly mainly stayed clear of playing with the forces that have been his undoing in the past and played himself.
Denly had been before assaulting left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner using a glorious straight six before reaching his half-century since the 33-year-old grafted against New Zealand’s accurate attack.
Stokes revealed the worth of the newfound motivation of England. In fluency he climbed after a quiet start, taking Trent Boult for 16 runs in the closing stages, before being dropped by Taylor.
After a determined innings this was a surprise when Denly, confronted with the second ball, then delivered a thin border into wicketkeeper BJ Watling. The groan in the batsman showed his annoyance at falling short of a century.
Actually, England’s wickets all seemed to fall to some lapse in concentration.
Sibley was caught at first slide while Burns, jittery after edging through slide along with being struck on the helmet, nicked De Grandhomme through to Watling, playing across the line.
Root was the most unsatisfactory of all, taking 21 balls to remove the mark before cutting another delivery.
Back in Boult and Southee, New Zealand are just two of the greatest swing bowlers in the world, however there was little help on offer in their opinion.
Since the ball got older, Boult had to rely on his variations, bowling cross-seam, although Southee was cheap but not able to earn a breakthrough.
It was all-rounder De Grandhomme while Neil Wagner was rewarded for a very protracted, hostile bout using the wicket of captain , along with his that watched the two dishwashers.
Southee made a delivery to discount Denly – a touch wider, drawing on the batsman into a shot – and for a lot of the day, the New Zealand strike kept the lid on the scoring pace of England.
The time England were able to get off was in the closing stages, if all the new ball was returned together with by a Boult.
On a wicket that is fantastic and with the likes of Sam Curran and Jos Buttler to emerge, England will hope to compile a total on the second day, which starts at 22:00 GMT.
England batsman Rory Burns on Test Match Special:” It was a challenging day but a fantastic day. It seemed like a fantastic wicket – .
“I was nowhere near my fluent best but was able to stick and out it. I am disappointed to only get a 50 and not a significant one.”
New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner on TMS:”I thought we bowled fairly well and England batted nicely. When we place it they had been patient and they set it away, if we made it wrong.
“However they have not run out from us if we get a few early wickets tomorrow [Friday] we’re back in it.”
Ex-England batsman Mark Ramprakash on TMS: “England will fancy their chances. I really don’t think the wicket is going to change, it appears good for batting.
“The best order were concentrated for setting a stage for the remainder of the team. Only four down in the end of the day means England is going to be delighted with their job.”
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Analysis and comment from the BBC’s cricket correspondent.