RUN-MACHINE Joe Root insisted it was imperative that attack became England’s primary form of defence after a shaky start on the opening day of the first Test at Lord’s yesterday.
The hosts were in disarray at 30-4 before newly-appointed vice-captain Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes joined forces to kickstart England’s revival with a stand of 161, although both were dismissed tantalisingly short of three figures, notching 98 and 92 respectively.
A half-century from wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who fell to the final ball of the day, and Moeen Ali’s 49 not out moved England to 354-7 at the close, while seamer and Test debutant Matt Henry claimed 3-93 for New Zealand.
England’s player of the year Root has scored at least a half-century in each of his last 10 Tests and, alongside Stokes, changed the game’s momentum after an inauspicious start on a green-tinged wicket, admitting it was key to avoid the innings drifting to a standstill.
“We just went out there with the mentality of trying to counter-attack,” said Root. “We thought they’ve been very aggressive at us, there were 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.
“I thought the partnerships we built throughout the innings were fantastic. 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.”
Seamer Tim Southee, one half of New Zealand’s dangerous new-ball pairing, had debutant Adam Lyth caught behind, before Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance edged Trent Boult to third slip.
Skipper Alastair Cook was unable to replicate the century he scored at the Kensington Oval in Barbados earlier this month, his first ton in 36 Test innings, and top-edged Henry behind to BJ Watling for 16.
Ian Bell’s woes at No4 continued and he was bowled by Henry for one, meaning the Warwickshire batsman has accumulated just 13 runs in his last five innings since amassing 143 in England’s first innings in Antigua in April.
The scene was then set for Root and Stokes to show middle-order resilience and initiate the recovery before Buttler and Moeen, who was dropped down the order to No8, added a watchful stand of 103 until Boult’s last-gasp intervention.
“I got told yesterday I was batting at No6. It is good to get that responsibility and hopefully I can make that my spot,” said Stokes, who fell eight runs shy of a second Test hundred.
“Rooty over the last 18-20 months has been in incredible form, and when you are in the middle with him, with his record, it fills you with confidence.
“Hopefully tomorrow Mo can come out and play how he did and the lower order can stick with him. Hopefully we can get over 400 and then, with the ball, take a few early wickets.”