Stokes and Root help dig England out of hole

JOE Root hailed a “fantastic effort” from England after helping them stage a superb recovery on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand, with the Yorkshire batsman putting the fightback down to adopting a more aggressive mindset.

Englands Joe Root hits out on his way to 98 during the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at Lords. Picture: Getty Images
Englands Joe Root hits out on his way to 98 during the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at Lords. Picture: Getty Images

England looked in deep trouble when they were reduced to 30 for four after being put in to bat at Lord’s, but their middle order of Root (98), Ben Stokes (92), Jos Buttler (67) and Moeen Ali (49 not out) helped the hosts finish the day on 354 for seven.

It would have been even better for Alastair Cook’s men but for the dismissal of Buttler off the final ball of the day, trapped lbw by Trent Boult, but Root was nevertheless a happy man at the close. “Fantastic effort from the lads,” he said. “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.

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“I thought the partnerships we built throughout the innings were fantastic. I thought the way that Ben came in and played from the start took a lot of pressure off me at the other end.”

The fifth-wicket stand of 161 between Root and Stokes helped change the face of the game, with the duo scoring at more than five runs an over.

Root added: “We just went out there with the mentality of trying to counter-attack. 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 before lunch.”

Root was quickest to his half-century, his seventh in his last nine Test innings, from 53 balls, and he went on to within one more shot of his third hundred at this venue in successive years before chasing a wide one from Matt Henry and edging behind to wicketkeeper Tom Latham.

New Zealand-born Stokes provided England’s impetus after lunch with a string of commanding boundaries, often on-drives and fierce pulls – one for six off Henry into the Mound Stand, to go with 15 fours – before missing out on a second Test ton when he left a straight one from off-spinner Mark Craig to be bowled off-stump.

Root’s reliability, in evidence amid England’s difficulties in all formats in recent times, proved vital again after Cook’s team faltered earlier in the day.

Put into bat by Brendon McCullum, Cook and debutant Adam Lyth made an encouraging start on a day when the ball swung throughout but especially at first. Tim Southee then did Lyth with a variation, though, moving down the slope for a faint edge behind.

Gary Ballance was determined to play from deep in his crease but pushed out in front of his pads for a low edge to third slip after Boult switched to the pavilion end. Then it was over to the pace of first-change Henry. Cook took on a bouncer but edged his attempted pull behind, and then Ian Bell was bowled by a very good ball which beat the defensive push on the outside and clipped the off bail – a third wicket for the addition of just five runs.

Root and Stokes took up the challenge with aplomb until Stokes fell to Craig, and it was Buttler who then helped Root put on another 60 until England’s new vice-captain departed in anti-climax.

Buttler shared a partnership of 103 with Moeen before Boult had Buttler lbw to the last ball of the day.

ENGLAND First innings

A Lyth c Watling b Southee7

A N Cook c Watling b Henry16

G S Ballance c Southee b Boult1

I R Bell b Henry1

J E Root c Latham b Henry98

B A Stokes b Craig92

J C Buttler lbw b Boult67

M M Ali not out49

Extras b12 lb6 w2 nb3 pens 023

Total 7 wkts (90 overs)354

Fall: 1-17, 2-25, 3-25, 4-30, 5-191, 6-251, 7-354.

Bowling: Boult 24-5-70-2; Southee 19-1-82-1; Henry 24-3-93-3; Craig 18-2-77-1; Anderson 5-1-14-0.