New Zealand were grateful for a century partnership between Tom Blundell and Daryl Mitchell, their third of the series, that dragged them to an overnight score of 225 for five at the end of an eventful opening day to the fourth Test at Headingley, but still admitted that their main emotion after stumps was disappointment.
Having won the toss in blazing sunshine and decided to bat, the Kiwis would have hoped for a better return – even if a significantly worse fate looked likely after Tom Latham was dismissed for a duck in the opening over and they soon found themselves 83 for four.
“To get through to the end of the day the way they did was brilliant for us,” said Luke Ronchi, their batting coach. “You’d want to be in a better position when you win the toss but you can’t fault England’s bowling. To be in the position we are now – we worked hard, we got through some tough bowling, and to be five down at the end of day one, you can take that and hopefully kick on tomorrow.”
Mitchell ended the day unbeaten on 78, and at this point in his fifth innings of the series has 451 runs at an average of 150.3. He might have been dismissed when he was struck on the pad by a Matt Potts delivery while on only eight, only for Marais Erasmus to turn down England’s appeal and Ben Stokes to decide not to review. It was later shown that the ball would have hit middle stump.
Mitchell scored 190 runs in New Zealand’s first innings at Trent Bridge having been dropped while on three, and England’s nightmare this evening will be that they are destined to be savagely punished again. “He’s has been quite lucky early on in a couple of innings,” Ronchi said.
“Even talking to him, he thought he was in some trouble. That’s the way DRS works. More often than not you know straight away whether you’re going to go for it. There’s times you take it and you think it’s out no matter what and you realise it’s not even close. It’s just one of those situations you find yourself in from time to time.”
England’s Jack Leach described it as “a real good day for the lads” having been the busiest bowler, sending down 30 overs and taking two wickets. Will Young was trapped lbw with his first ball of the day before the freak dismissal of Henry Nicholls, caught by Alex Lees after the ball deflected to him off the bat of Mitchell at the non-striker’s end – “I didn’t know whether it was even out,” he said. “It’s just something you never see.” Given that he turned 31 on Wednesday and was presented with a new cap for his 25th Test appearance before play, the spinner was able to reflect on an unusually incident-packed 24 hours.
“I thought I was on 24 caps – I’d erased one from my memory – so it was a bit of a surprise that I was getting that today, but it’s a nice milestone and makes you proud of what you’ve achieved because I didn’t even think I was going to play one Test, so to get to 25 is special.”
Meanwhile Adil Rashid will miss England’s white-ball series against India next month after being given permission to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. After playing a single Test at Edgbaston next week, England and India have three Twenty20 Internationals followed by three one-day matches, with all 11 days’ play scheduled within the first 17 days of July.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a little while but I’ve found it pretty difficult with the timings,” Rashid, who will also miss the latter stages of Yorkshire’s T20 Blast campaign, told ESPNcricinfo. “This year, I felt as though it was something that I had to do, and something I wanted to do as well. I spoke to the ECB and to Yorkshire about it and they were very understanding and encouraging.”