England impressed and disappointed in parts the 17,000 fans at Edgbaston, Day one, in what was a baby-step towards the restoration of normalcy. Going once again with no designated spinner, the hosts only made a forced change by bringing Olly for Ollie (Stone for Robinson), in stark contrast to their rivals, who made – or were rather forced to make a sea of changes due to a combination of injuries and workload management.
A sore back kept BJ Watling out of the mix, with Tom Blundell taking the gloves charge, while Will Young replaced Kane Williamson, whose elbow niggle ruled him out on the eve of the Test. The other changes being Daryl Mitchell, Ajaz Patel, Matt Henry and Trent Boult. New Zealand was asked to bowl by Joe Root, who seemed a happy captain for at least a third of the day.
Despite the heavy-lacquered Dukes not swinging too wildly early morning, New Zealand’s pace troika of Boult, Wagner and Henry ensured to not give any runs easily to the England openers, who, too, seemed in no rush. Having got their eyes in, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley ended a prolonged rut of failed opening stands for England at home, amassing a half-century partnership that received applauses aplenty – finally – from creatures made of bones and flesh, instead of randomly recorded fake cheers.
New Zealand hit back
Having navigated their way to Lunch in a manner as unfussy as possible, any hopes of mounting on the visitors shattered for England, who lost three wickets in a space of four overs.
Sibley’s 84-ball vigil ended as he found himself stuck in two minds before edging Henry behind, while Zak Crawley edged Wagner to third slip in the next over, bagging his third-consecutive single-digit score in the series, this time a four-ball duck. Henry struck again and sent Joe Root packing, as the English skipper feather-edged him to Blundell behind.
Unflustered with what happened around him, Burns burnt bright as he steadied the ship with Ollie Pope in a 42-run fourth-wicket stand. When Pope seemed to have dug himself in alongside an iron-solid Burns, he was undone by Ajaz Patel to ensure that the second session was entirely owned by the opponents.
Both Wagner and Boult extracted as much as they possibly could have despite the track offering little movement. The duo stuck to the fourth stump line, pitching the majority of the deliveries in the good and short of a length corridor, posing questions to the batters and pushing them in two minds.
Following up his hard-fought ton at Lord’s in the previous game, Burns looked set for another, although Boult successfully managed to lure him for the drive – when he was at 81 – which took the outside edge before landing into the hands of slips. If James Bracey had managed to overcome the sight of his off-stump flying all over the place on debut courtesy Southee, Boult ensured to give him fresh horrors, getting him caught behind to still keep him away from getting his first runs in Test cricket.
With wickets tumbling once again, it came down to the dodgy resistance of Dan Lawrence, who strung two critical stands – 42 with Stone followed by 36 with Mark Wood – to take innings lead past 250. He struck 11 fours in his unbeaten 100-ball 67 and held his end up, but Patel trapped Stone lbw to push England at risk of being wrapped up for a sub-par total. Wood, who stood unbeaten at 16 off 58, ensured to evade that, taking England to 258/7 at stumps.