The Black Caps will go into the second test against England with confidence, but without a victory.
An aggressive declaration on the final day of the first test at Lord’s set up the possibility of a thrilling conclusion, but England had no desire to make things exciting, and instead batted out a draw, the two teams finally shaking hands at the end of play after several tedious hours where the match was clearly unwinnable for either side.
New Zealand’s quest for their first series win in England this century now relies on victory at Edgbaston, with the second of two tests beginning on Thursday.
But, despite the draw, New Zealand can take plenty of positives from this test, which bodes well for not only the second test, but also the World Test Championship final against India next week.
In debutant double centurion Devon Conway they look to have, as advertised, another world-class batsman at the top of the order, while Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson showed they will be extremely difficult to contain in English conditions.
Even the veterans under pressure for their spots in the side managed to notch a few runs in the busy start to day five, in which the Black Caps had to play aggressively to win after day three was washed out.
Leading by 165 runs with eight wickets in hand, New Zealand immediately showed their intent to push for a result, with nightwatchman Neil Wagner having a few hoiks, before his departure led to Ross Taylor playing similarly aggressively.
It would be unwise to read too much into the events of the fifth morning, with the New Zealand batsmen playing unselfishly to set up a declaration, and Taylor’s 33 off 35 balls featured several shots he probably won’t be playing come Thursday. And while his dismissal was a familiar one – lacking footwork as he swiped outside off-stump – perhaps finding the boundary a few times will aid his confidence.
The same could apply to the similarly struggling BJ Watling, who spent a solid unbroken half hour at the crease. Watling and Henry Nicholls were strangely inserted ahead of a man seemingly tailor-made for the situation, Colin de Grandhomme, but it ultimately didn’t make much of a difference as the runs flowed freely enough to declare when spots of rain fell before lunch.
Once the rain departed after the break, England saw the Black Caps’ charitable challenge – 273 runs in 75 overs – and promptly declined the invitation.
Opener Dom Sibley taking 20 balls to get off the mark was a good indication of their strategy, as was Jamieson bowling 35 consecutive dot balls to begin the innings.
A wicket apiece to Southee and Wagner gave New Zealand a glimmer of hope, but even with the generous declaration ensuring the required run rate remained plausible long into the final day, a mixture of good bowling from the visitors and disinterest from the hosts saw 90-minute spans go by without a boundary.
While struggling for runs of late, Sibley’s defence has always been his calling card, and he blocked his way to a tortuously effective 60 not out from 207 balls, while skipper Joe Root soaked up a 71-ball 40 as the teams head to Edgbaston with all three series outcomes still in play.
Despite not making an unlikely comeback, New Zealand’s bowling promised plenty for the second test and the World Test Championship final. Beating the bat with regularity, Southee and Jamieson were producing prodigious amounts of swing, and Wagner had the ball on a string on the final day – all traits that should translate to the upcoming two tests.
Ultimately though, despite being the better side, the day three washout ensured that New Zealand’s tally of test wins at Lord’s stays at just one.
But, on the basis of this performance, their chances of an impressive series victory remain bright.
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