It was a test that New Zealand could have won, had it not been for a day lost to rain – yet all is certainly not lost, as Dylan Cleaver explains.
The Black Caps are in a good place…mainly
This was a flawed yet strong performance in which the visitors played like the home team and made all the running.
From winning the toss and batting to declaring earlier than expected to give England plenty to think about in the final two sessions, New Zealand played and carried themselves like favourites.
This is a significant shift in dynamics: too often New Zealand play tests away from home against good teams like they’re the plucky underdogs trying to prove something.
If not for a day lost to rain, New Zealand would have most likely have achieved just their second win at Lord’s. Alas.
But questions remain unanswered
At least we know who Tom Latham’s opening partner for the foreseeable future will be.
Devon Conway was the undoubted star of the show and his technique looks built for test cricket.
The three prongs of the four-pronged pace attack who were available at Lord’s all had their moments, so no worries there, but the lack of form of key veterans and the all-rounder options remain clouded.
Ross Taylor and BJ Watling both batted a second time after failing in the first innings but the compressed nature of the match and the imminent declaration meant little could be read into their respective innings of 33 and 15 not out.
Taylor swiped a few and Watling flicked it around pleasantly enough without either giving any compelling evidence that they have found their groove.
It would be a massive shock if either were jettisoned ahead of Southampton for Will Young (though Daryl Mitchell could be another batting option) or Tom Blundell but for some time now New Zealand have been getting sub-par returns from two key spots in the order.
The all-rounder/spin spots are a bit of a mess
Mitchell Santner keeps getting opportunities because he adds batting insurance to the middle order whereas the addition of Ajaz Patel lengthens the tail more than Gary Stead and Kane Williamson are clearly comfortable with.
At Lord’s, Santner went wicketless and scored a duck.
Colin de Grandhomme also went wicketless on a pitch that should have suited him and scored a first-innings duck. He got through the match unscathed, but that is all Stead learned.
The Edgbaston experiment
It didn’t matter what the result at Lord’s was, the Birmingham test was always going to be “live” in a two-test series.
However, with the enterprising way New Zealand declared at Lord’s it appears they’re prepared to risk losing in order to put themselves in high-pressure positions ahead of the one-off World Test Championship final against India.
Whether those risks extend to selection remains the most intriguing factor ahead of the second test that begins on Thursday.
Stead has already indicated that Trent Boult, who is with the squad now, will not play.
Might he also rest the superb Tim Southee? He knows he is in great form and can come back immediately after a long layoff, let alone a short one.
It would be a massive punt to go into a test without your two most accomplished new-ball bowlers but the bigger prize lies further south than Edgbaston.
If Patel remains a non-option in the spinner’s slot, it might be time at Edgbaston to see what Rachin Ravindra has got, though it is a heck of an ask for a kid to carry the spin-bowling load when it is very much the second string to his bow.
With a large squad at his disposal, Stead has all sorts of options but it is hard to see how anybody plays in Southampton if they have not played either of the two England tests.
It would be weird to see New Zealand not play their strongest and most experienced available side for a series-deciding test in England, but if it was ever going to happen, this is the time.
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