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England vs New Zealand | Lord’s Day 1 talking points: Devon Conway’s stellar start and Mark Wood’s struggle at home

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On Wednesday, we saw three debuts – Devon Conway, Ollie Robinson and James Bracey but it was actually Conway and Robinson who made their first day appearances. However, barring Conway’s batting, the England bowlers came back strongly after lunch to bring things back to a crawl for the hosts.

Devon Conway adds air to this Blackcaps sale

When two left-handed batsmen Devon Conway and Tom Latham came out to bat, the decision to field two left-handers at Lord’s seemed strange. But for most of the first three overs, the duo looked at home and seemingly knew their off-stump and where to leave the delivery. But the more interesting aspect was how Conway had batted on his Test debut in one of the most challenging conditions in the world. Unlike Latham, Conway took the second route – the offensive one – to tackle the new ball king-pin, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

During the first hour of the game, the Kiwi openers had a false shot percentage of just 17, which showed their technique against the Duke ball. But more importantly, Conway, who was just making his debut, was more eager to make an impression, attacking 21% of his shots, according to Cricviz. While his average of 63 against right-arm fast bowlers would have been impressive in New Zealand, the fact that he continued with the same approach against the two best new-ball openers was understandable.

In fact, 82% of his shots were controlled during the first two hours of play and showed that his movement towards attacking the ball was one of the main reasons for his success. While the short-ball took a toll on his body, his reaction, with a brilliant pull off Mark Wood’s rocket bowling, showed that he was not down to bow down. It almost looked like Graham Thorpe was back at Lord’s with that shot. By lunch, he had bowled only eight balls, indicating that he had indeed added an air to the already existing and successful Blackcaps cell. He took the top spot with a century, which left New Zealand in a shambles.

After-lunch effect for the English bowling unit

If New Zealand went into lunch session the happier of the two sides, England went out after lunch as the more determined. Broad and Anderson were back together after lunch, but this time more scrupulous and aggressive. First, Anderson went against Williamson, where he not only read him like a piece of paper, but also made sure the right-hander had a chance to punch anything on the off-side before pulling it back to make a mistake. There was absolutely no room for it. Since that moment, Broad has also improved his game, against Ross Taylor, in an over of absolute excellence, where he beat the right-handed batsman outside off-stump thrice. Taylor, one of New Zealand’s main batsmen, was everywhere, after lunch Broad’s average swing increased from 0.4 degrees to 1.8 degrees.

Swing became a key component in the post-lunch session, which in turn increased the false shot percentage from 19% to 30%. It saw the back of not only Williamson but also Taylor, who was set up brilliantly by Ollie Robinson, who placed the ball outside off-stump and darted one to hit the middle and foot. In a session that lasted an hour, England’s bowling was right there, devastating and threatening the Blackcaps, who had no clue on the ball, suddenly talking two wickets.

Mark Wood’s struggle continues at home

On 21 May 2015, six years earlier, Mark Wood made his first appearance at Lord’s, where he took three for 93. He was Wood, at his best, raw pace, confident and with a precision never seen before. His last appearance at the venue was against Pakistan in 2018, where he took two more wickets. But since 2018, he has not played at the venue, was not involved in the Ashes plans and only played in Southampton last year. Back last year, he was inconsistent, conceding 110 runs in the innings, with two wickets in hand.

So when Jofra Archer was injured and England announced the squad, it was highly likely that Wood would return to the setup against New Zealand. But the question remained, will that work? The Durham man started the block fast, I mean, at the pace that whistled from behind Devon Conway’s helmet. However, since that opening spell against Conway, Wood’s long home struggle continued, with him looking toothless, conceding runs for the other two sessions of the day. For the selectors and for how long to consider the likes of Ollie Stone and Craig Overton on the bench.

According to Cricviz, his expected average was 50, with only Wally Hammond, Robert Croft, George Gerry surpassing him in the country. And by that, Wood did little to improve his already poor home statistics, averaging 44.91 in 10 Tests before that.

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