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New Zealand v England

The big six: Joe Denly leads the way for patient England

by Taha Hashim 5 minute read

Taha Hashim tells the tale of the opening day of the first Test between New Zealand and England at Bay Oval, where Joe Denly and Ben Stokes starred for the visitors.

The perfect start

0.6 Trent Boult to Dominic Sibley, FOUR

If there were nerves, they were gone quickly. Dominic Sibley made the perfect start to his Test career, clipping his first ball for four through a gap in the leg side. And the early signs were positive; his open stance looked authoritative against the new-ball duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The man who ran Division One bowlers into the ground in 2019 was happy to bide his time, with his next scoring shot coming 22 balls later. Naturally, it was a clipped four through the leg side that broke the drought, his love for that half of the ground clear to see.

Had New Zealand reviewed the final ball of the fifth over, Rory Burns would have been sent on his way: Hot Spot showed a tiny mark on his bat from a Boult delivery that travelled safely into the hands of BJ Watling. But similar to his manner in the Ashes, Burns recovered to look assured and resembled something of an aggressor in comparison to Sibley.

Together the pair put on 30 in the opening 60 minutes. It wasn’t a thrill-seeking opening hour, but a bit of boredom is what England need after years of chaos at the top.

Sibley gives it away

21.4 Dominic Sibley, c Ross Taylor b Colin de Grandhomme, 22 (63)

Colin de Grandhomme. The man club cricketers so desperately want to be. He gives the ball a whack and while it may not look lethal, his medium pace always manages to stir some trouble. Sibley must have felt he’d done his job by surviving Boult and Southee, but it was de Grandhomme, a form of bowler he’s faced so regularly in county cricket, that had his number.

Pitching it full, de Grandhomme found enough movement away from the right-hander to nab the edge as Sibley’s bat looked to go through mid-on.

Neil Wagner and de Grandhomme put the dots together, but another wicket failed to arrive before lunch. England went to the break on 61-1.

Denly pulls out the shots

34.6 Neil Wagner to Joe Denly, FOUR

A riveting battle. While Burns suddenly looked all at sea after lunch, Denly v Wagner appeared a more even contest.

From the first ball of the 33rd over came a sumptuous pull shot, and Wagner was having none of it, with Denly made to look less than comfortable from the two balls that followed. But then came another audacious pull from Denly to confirm that this was a serious duel.

Wagner’s next over saw Denly add to his growing pull-shot collection with another boundary, but Wagner’s threat remained. A fuller delivery followed two balls later and with Denly pinned back in his crease, the ball flew just inches past his off stump.

What did Denly do the next ball? You guessed it: out came the pull shot and four more runs to round off the over.

 Burns’ luck runs out

45.1 Rory Burns, c BJ Watling b Colin de Grandhomme, 52 (138)

He raised his bat for a half-century, but it was tough going for Burns in the second session. The force of Wagner saw his helmet rattled; then, Southee should have been wheeling away in celebration. Fortunately for Burns, an edge flew between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham, the pair engaging in a game of statues as neither went for the catch in the slip cordon.

Then came a Boult delivery that pinned the left-hander’s back pad. This time the New Zealanders went for the review, but umpire’s call kept Burns alive. A half-century arrived but de Grandhomme prevailed, getting Burns to hop and prod forward to hand over the edge.

Burns’ wicket was just reward for New Zealand’s bowlers. Joe Root, so used to getting off the mark in a hurry, was forced to wait 21 balls for his first runs, and he was gone the next ball. Wagner was the happy man, but he’s not one for smiles. He let roar as Southee held on in the cordon.

Denly’s ton has to wait

68.3 Neil Wagner to Joe Denly, FOUR

After his pull-shot exhibition against Wagner, it would have been a crying shame if Denly hadn’t celebrated a half-century. He was patient but, ever a man for aesthetics, he delightfully drove the 136th ball of his innings for four past cover to bring up his fourth Test fifty in four matches.

It was a fine innings from Denly, but the second new ball led to his downfall. Southee found swing and a bit of bounce too, and BJ Watling took an excellent diving catch behind the stumps. Denly departed for a 181-ball 74. Three figures will have to wait another day.

Stokes steps up the tempo

84.2 Trent Boult to Ben Stokes, FOUR

The shot of the day. A drive through mid-off with the straightest bat from the new ball of Boult. Simply Stokes.

England’s premier all-rounder proved a handy partner for Denly and he continued to look in fine touch in the company of Ollie Pope, reaching his half-century from 91 balls. From the very next over came his gorgeous drive, and it signalled a change in the tempo of the day. The next ball went through square leg for four and a slap through cover made it three on the bounce.

Then came a moment of regret for New Zealand as Stokes’ blade flashed an edge that went through the hands of Taylor in the slip cordon. Stokes stayed in till the end of the day. England should be delighted with their efforts.

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