England in New Zealand: Ben Stokes hits 67 not out on opening day of first Test
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From Amy Lofthouse
England batted themselves into a promising place on the launching day of their first Test.
Three of the tourists best five compiled half-centuries as England closed on 241-4.
Ben Stokes struck a flagging New Zealand assault with a 67 that was unbeaten after fifties from Rory Burns and the stage was laid by Joe Denly.
Colin de Grandhomme took 2-28 to the hosts on a fantastic batting wicket.
England are very infamous for collapses lately but this was a way to start a Test collection.
Captain Joe Root was the sole member of the greatest order to not reach double figures, although debutant opener Dom Sibley succeeded at – but did not fully show – his character in a gritty 22.
Ross Taylor at slide late in the day droped 63 stokes but he noticed England through to the close in New Zealands North Island, along with Ollie Pope that made a 18.
England were also forged for 58 but Denly in particular showed the determination that has been missing two decades ago to grind out a start.
Just 30 runs came from the first 10 overs and when an aggressive shot was performed – like 24-year-old Sibley cutting on his very first ball into the mid-wicket border – it was a consequence of the bowlers straying away line, rather than a risky shot in the batsmen.
The approach worked to a degree. Burns half-century from 135 balls has been his slowest in Test cricket, while Denly played in and stayed clear of enjoying with the drives which were his undoing.
Denly had been before attacking spinner Mitchell Santner with a glorious straight six, before reaching his half-century since the grafted against New Zealand assault.
Stokes, too, showed the worth of Englands new-found patience. In fluency he climbed after a start, shooting Trent Boult for 16 runs in the final stages.
After a determined innings it was a surprise if Denly, faced with the second ball, then delivered a narrow edge off Southee through to wicketkeeper BJ Watling. The frustrated groan in the batsman revealed his annoyance whatsoever falling short of a century.
In fact, Englands wickets all seemed to fall to a lapse in concentration.
Sibley was caught at slide while Burns, jittery after being struck on the helmet and then edging through slip, nicked De Grandhomme through to Watling playing across the line.
Root has been the most unsatisfactory of all, taking 21 balls prior to cutting another delivery to second 24, to remove the mark.
In Boult and Southee, New Zealand have two of their swing bowlers on earth, but there was little assistance on offer in their opinion.
As the ball got old, while Southee was economical but unable Boult needed to rely upon his variations, bowling cross-seam to produce a breakthrough.
It had been his that finally saw off the two dishwashers, while Neil Wagner was honored to get a very hostile spell with the wicket of captain and all-rounder De Grandhomme.
Southee made a delivery to discount Denly – a bit broader, drawing the batsman to a shooter that was false – and for much of the day, the New Zealand strike kept the lid on Englands scoring pace.
The only time was at the final stages, if there returned a Boult with the ball.
On a fantastic wicket and with the likes of Jos Buttler and Sam Curran to emerge, England will hope to compile a possibly match-winning total on the day, which starts at 22:00 GMT.
England batsman Rory Burns on Test Match Special: This was a difficult day but a good day. It looked like a good wicket – it had been a bit slower than I believed it would be and made the cricket somewhat attritional.
I was nowhere near my eloquent best but was able to stick and grit it out. Im not able to just get a 50 rather than a significant one.
New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner on TMS:I thought we bowled fairly well and England batted nicely. They had been individual, when we put it in the place and once we got it wrong, they put it away.
But they havent run off from us and if we get a couple of early wickets tomorrow [Friday] were back in it.
Ex-England batsman Mark Ramprakash on TMS: England will fancy their chances. I dont believe the wicket will change, it seems great for batting.
The best order were focused for placing a platform for the remainder of the team. Only four down at the close of the day means England is going to be delighted with their work.
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Analysis and opinion from the cricket correspondent of the BBC.
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