Eng vs NZ, 1st Test, Lord’s, 2022

“I’d sell my soul for total control…” sang The Motels about 1979, and this was a contest where neither side could claim to be in control until what turned out to be the final morning, when Joe Root and Ben Foakes led England to a rather anticlimactic five-wicket victory over New Zealand just over an hour into the fourth day.

Talk to a seasoned England fan whose side needs just 61 runs with five wickets left in hand and one of their greatest at bats ever unbeaten at 77, and yet they expected more than half of a disastrous collapse to cause some unwanted excitement , or the imposing gloom overhead to erupt and prolong the day. But neither came about.

New Zealand had to seize the initiative with an aging ball they’d managed to swap the previous night, probably to their peril when it offered them no help whatsoever, and they tried repeatedly – unsuccessfully – to change it again Sunday morning.

“The match ebbed and flowed throughout the three-and-a-half days and there were some very similar traits,” said New Zealand captain Kane Williamson. “We tried to take advantage of that, whether that was overhead or the slightly harder ball.

“Thanks to England, it was a game that was on the cutting edge, it was finely balanced and we knew this morning we knew that if we can pick up a wicket early, we know things can happen quickly here in England” It wasn’t supposed to be. We struggled to get the help we were hoping for and an exceptional knock from Joe there, he’s done that so many times and he’s doing it again.”

Indeed, it was Root and Foakes who finally took control of an arm wrestling match of a glorious century and mature 32 respectively as part of a 120 point uninterrupted stand.

But before that, it was some of the more out of control moments that had the potential to define this match. There was Colin de Grandhomme’s bizarre run-out as he seemed to bask a little too long in surviving an lbw appeal from Stuart Broad in the middle of three New Zealand wickets falling in as many balls as the Grandhomme’s No-ball which gave Ben Stokes a second life to 1 (he went on to score a valuable 54).

Stokes took on spinner Ajaz Patel, launching him for three sixes and effectively shutting him off from the attack on the third day and Stokes’ eventual dismissal smashed his hands on a Kyle Jamieson spire. It was all moments within moments that could have turned the game.

Jamieson was able to keep his head high after bowling for his four wickets on the third day. Williamson said his intention had been to use Patel more but after conceding 22 of his two overs in England’s second innings and with cold, cloudy conditions not conducive to turning the final day, he looked again to his sailors.

“Both teams were playing frontline spinners, looking at the surface and expecting to come into play,” Williamson said. “We’ve seen that a little bit more all season here in county cricket as well and as we saw it took a slightly different turn and things started happening pretty quickly where the seam threat bowlers seemed to be more important and so tried we make use of it.

“Of course when the game comes to an end and time isn’t on your side you try to make the decisions that would give you the best chance and we felt like the sailors who were there were the ones trying to do the job like they did in the first innings.”

He was also left to Broad’s explosive spell with the second new ball that Daryl Mitchell removed shortly after he reached his century on the third morning, while James Anderson removed Tom Blundell four runs for his barrel, which served to help the New Zealand bowlers to emphasize’ inability put a lid on Root and Foakes until the second new ball was in front of them.

“It was a game that was so finely balanced through all the days it was played and so trying to stay in it and be patient and know if you can bring quality for long periods then it can change so quickly and we had that certainly hope for the last day today,” Williamson said.

“We might have hoped for some help and a lot of the lads have played in England before and talk about overheads and today you couldn’t have hoped for much better. But it wasn’t meant to be and it got real quality in the batting and in the chase who supplied England. So unfortunately for us it was not our day but credit to England and the way they played and also stayed in the fight.”

Stokes, who was celebrating his 31st birthday on Saturday, recalled his thoughts as he returned, three-quarters of the way back to the pavilion, thinking he was on his way to the Grandhomme: “Whatever my wife gives me for my birthday, it’s probably won’t be so good.”

“It was a huge bit of luck, but sometimes you need it,” he added, “just really, really lucky, because I don’t think Dutchy crosses the line that much. Lord’s and drama and me – it just seems to follow me, right?”

Stokes also noted how momentum could have gone either way in a match that was reminiscent of their 2019 World Cup final.

“We didn’t take control, New Zealand didn’t take control,” he said. “Maybe they did that at some point when Mitchell and Blundell were playing, but I just don’t know what it is with Lord’s, England-New Zealand, there’s just always drama, always very good games and we’re very even , especially in these English terms.

“Need sixty, five wickets down, it sounds like we should be cruising to victory, but the way this wicket is played and the conditions that always seemed to favor the bowlers, but the way Joe and Ben went out and played this morning, you know, I almost immediately hit the nail in the coffin.”

So finally someone found it. That precious moment of control.

Valkerie Baynes is general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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