Matthew Potts looks a real find, England’s catching, energy and purpose in the field was outstanding but the top three is still a worry for Brendon McCullum… the highs and lows from the win at Lord’s against New Zealand
- If fielding is indicative of their collective mood then England have improved
- Matthew Potts was brilliant from the moment he dismissed Kane Williamson
- Zak Crawley is still driving injudiciously and Ollie Pope looks two places too high
- Friday’s second Test at Trent Bridge could be a last home Test for Stuart Broad
England got off to a winning start under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum with a thrilling five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first Test.
It was their first win since August and only their second in their last 18 Tests. But what did they learn from their first win in a Test against New Zealand for seven years?
Sportsmail looks at the highs and lows of Lord’s and beyond.
England claimed a thrilling five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first Test at Lord’s
If a team’s fielding performance is indicative of their collective spirit and mood then the new regime have quickly improved England.
They were outstanding in their catching from the moment Jonny Bairstow set the tone on the first morning and their ability to regularly hit the stumps was epitomised by Ollie Pope’s crucial run out of Colin de Grandhomme.
And they showed energy and purpose in furiously chasing every ball to the boundary as McCullum demands — even if it did give Jack Leach concussion.
England were outstanding in their catching from the moment Jonny Bairstow (C) set the tone
We also learned, not surprisingly, that Joe Root is likely to be even better without the demands of the captaincy and, even less surprisingly, that Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson remain two of the best bowlers, certainly in English conditions, in the world.
How foolish Sir Andrew Strauss and, yes, Root look now for seemingly consigning them to history.
Broad summed up the early impact of the new quest for positivity and dynamism when he said afterwards: ‘That was one of the most fun weeks we’ve had. It was just the relaxed environment, the way we’re talking as a team.’
Top of the Potts (just don’t call him Matty)
England have a number of injured fast bowlers, but the latest from the Durham production line looks a real find. Matthew — ‘don’t call me Matty’ — Potts was brilliant from the moment he claimed Kane Williamson with his fifth ball in Test cricket and overall he took seven important wickets.
It was noticeable, too, how calm and confident he looked making his own field alterations from his first over.
‘He’s got some great attributes,’ said Broad, who took the newcomer out for a round of golf in a three-ball with Anderson the day before the Test to help him settle. ‘He can swing it, seam it, he brings the stumps into play. And he’s built nicely for a fast bowler — he looks like he’s made of stone.’
It was a concern, though, to see Potts leave the field mid-over during the first innings with what turned out thankfully to just be cramp.
He’s played a lot already for Durham this season and England need to tread carefully with him now. The last thing they need is for another fast bowler to go lame.
Matthew Potts was brilliant from the moment he claimed Kane Williamson with his fifth ball
But let’s not get carried away
Clearly it will take McCullum longer than a week to make his mark on England and he wanted to see what he had before he started making changes.
He must be concerned about the top three despite the understandable view that Zak Crawley and Pope have high ceilings and are worth sticking with. Crawley is still driving injudiciously and Pope still looks two places too high at three.
The most pressure is on Alex Lees, despite him looking more fluent in his second-innings 20 than at any time in Test cricket so far.
Ollie Pope (above) has a high ceiling but still looks two places too high at three in the order
Lees badly needs to build on one of his many starts in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
Then there is Bairstow. He looked what he was — a man who had stepped straight from the IPL into Test cricket without any red-ball match practice and was far too frenetic and loose in both innings.
Interestingly, Stokes made a point of praising Bairstow’s approach afterwards but he is treading a fine line between positivity and irresponsibility. Harry Brook, who could hardly have done any more to earn a place, remains in the wings.
Alex Lees badly needs to build on one of his many starts in the second Test at Trent Bridge
Lack of an X-factor
You could see what England were trying to do in finding out about other bowlers in overseas conditions when they left Broad and Anderson out of their Caribbean tour. It’s also not England’s fault every fast bowler available to them who is capable of 90 miles per hour is crocked.
But that partnership, which looked as if it would be decisive, between Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell emphasised the lack of a point of difference in the England seam attack.
At least Broad and Anderson have banished any thoughts of retirement, for now at least, and should be used as much as possible until they drop.
There are no issues with the old regime, either, over the controversy of the winter, with Broad saying: ‘Joe and I spoke at length when he stood down and I told him how much he’s meant to me as captain and what a privilege it was to play under him. I can’t fall out with someone because they don’t pick me in a team. That would be a bit pathetic.’
Stuart Broad (L) and James Anderson (C) have banished any thoughts of retirement for the time being
…And so to Nottingham
Trent Bridge is sold out for the first three days of the second Test — as Lord’s pretty much was despite the stories about empty seats. It could be a last home Test for Broad, with the Nottingham ground not staging an Ashes match next year.
But even though, at one stage, this week looked as though it might prove the perfect exit stage for one half of the greatest new-ball partnership in England’s history, Broad is not entertaining any thoughts of going out at home now.
‘I’ve changed my mindset over the winter and since the Ashes,’ he said. ‘It’s just enjoying each week and giving everything. Jimmy turns 40 this year — was he thinking when he was my age that he was playing his last Test at Old Trafford? Probably not.
‘I started this season not knowing if I’d ever pull on an England shirt again so I will walk out, look around Trent Bridge and think how lucky I am.’
The new England are lucky to have Broad and Anderson. They remain integral to England’s revival in what will be a challenging summer. Starting at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Trent Bridge is sold out for the first three days of the second Test — as Lord’s pretty much was
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