The highs and lows of England’s “Bazball” has been on show in New Zealand as the Poms set up a huge day one at Bay Oval.
Ben Duckett and Harry Brook struck blistering half-centuries as England declared their innings at 325-9 late on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui on Thursday.
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England raced to their total in just 58.2 overs — the second earliest declaration in Test history — beaten only by Pakistan in 1974, who declared at 9/325 after 44.5 overs.
The day-night Test also saw England strike with the ball, taking 3/37 in 18 overs, including Tom Latham, Kane Williamson and Henry Nicolls.
The match is moving at an incredible speed as England continue to revolutionise Test match cricket under coach Brendan McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
But it’s not all good, as Joe Root showed with his dismissal.
Root had played a ramp shot for four with the second ball after tea and tried it again.
Instead of a boundary however, he steered it straight into the hands of Daryl Mitchell at third slip.
However, Root has been successful under Bazball, averaging 50.26 with three hundreds and two fifties.
Assistant digital editor for London’s City A.M. Jack Mendel wrote: “If you enjoy Joe Root playing this shot and hitting someone for six, then you need to accept sometimes it will also get him out. Rough with the smooth etc..”
PA Media’s Rory Dollard added: “Root’s outrageous over-the-shoulder scoop has cost him for the first time.”
Indian author Mehran Zaidi commented: “His (Root’s) average will drop considerably if he continues to get out playing ridiculous shots as part of the bazball strategy.
“To be honest it is enjoyable to watch no doubt but I think they should keep Root out of this strategy. the best batsman should bat according to his style.”
While there were plenty defending it, others labelled it “madness”, “ugly”, “brainless” and even “the death of Test cricket”.
But while there will be dismissals like this, you also can’t argue with the results as England have won nine of their past 10 Tests heading into an Ashes year.
England captain Stokes instructed his lower order batsmen to throw the bat before calling them in, leaving about an hour to bowl at the Black Caps under lights with a new pink ball.
Their run rate hovered just below six per over throughout most of an innings that lasted just 58.2 overs and featured 48 fours and one towering six from Brook off the bowling of New Zealand captain Tim Southee who was lashed for 2-71 from 13 overs.
New Zealand’s depleted attack fought back midway through the second session when Ollie Pope, Joe Root and Stokes fell in quick succession, allowing debut pace bowlers Blair Tickner (1-72) and Scott Kuggeleijn (2-80) to claim their maiden Test wickets.
However, momentum was snatched back by the in-form Brook who accelerated to 89 off 81 balls.
Playing just his fifth Test, Brook was poised to become only the second England batsman after Ken Barrington in the 1960s to hit centuries in four consecutive Tests.
However, he played on to Neil Wagner (4-82), the veteran seamer benefiting from England’s wild approach to the end of their innings.
Like Brook, Duckett was a revelation during the 3-0 series win in Pakistan two months ago and he maintained his hot streak with 84 off 68 balls.
The hard-hitting opener had a chance of scoring England’s fastest Test century — surpassing Gilbert Jessop’s 76-ball knock against Australia in 1902 — before he fell to Tickner late in the first session.
Fans were once again blown away by Bazball.
Sports reporter Himanshu Pareek posted: “The last day-night Test England played in NZ, they got bundled for 57 odd runs in the first innings. Today, they scored 320+ on the very first day. Harry Brook and Duckett played like beasts. Now NZ in trouble against Jimmy. Bazball is here to stay.”
CODE Sports’ Daniel Cherny wrote: “Declaring after 58.2 overs on day one is a new peak for #BazBall.”
The Times’ Jack Blackburn commented: “I reckon that when it’s all over and the stats are in, this will be the average Bazball performance. Low 300s, scored in 3/5s of a day.”
Southee, leading his country at home for the first time, asked England to bat with the hope of exploiting the pink ball’s swing on a green-tinged pitch that had been covered for days because of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Their best spell came when Pope departed for 42 and Root for 14 in the space of four balls, followed soon afterwards by captain Stokes for 19.
England’s declaration worked well as they left New Zealand 288 behind with seven wickets left.
Evergreen seamer James Anderson took 2-11, including the key wicket of Williamson following an lbw review.
Opener Devon Conway will resume on 18 and nightwatchmen Neil Wagner on four.
Story Credit: news.com.au