It was a day of contrasting fortunes. It fluctuated from one end to another within a matter of seconds but it set up a narrative that would be too difficult to ignore in the remaining four days of this Test match.
Since 2015, pacers have accounted for a staggering 75.14% of the wickets at Edgbaston. That tells the impact the tribe has at the venue but the first session of the game was right out of the syllabus. With no cloud hovering over, Trent Boult and Matt Henry failed to test the English duo enough who were happy to leave deliveries away from their line. So much so that it turned out to be the first instance of England openers batting throughout the first session of the first day (Minimum 20 overs) since the 2011 Test against India at The Oval.
At 67/0, the hosts were comfortably placed to take on the Kiwi bowlers in the second session, so did they think. In a game, where New Zealand made six changes to keep their main squad fresh for the World Test Championship final, the sidekicks stole the show.
Henry, who was brought to the squad in place of Kyle Jamieson, had a tough first session but post-lunch, he donned a different hat. His scrambled seam, for which he was hailed so much in white-ball cricket, came out perfectly as Sibley committed to it unnecessarily. Zak Crawley’s torrid form continued for yet another game as he was dismissed for his ninth single-digit score out of the 11 innings in 2021 by Neil Wagner who suddenly added more swing to his arsenal than he did in the first hour of the play.
Henry was not done yet. With a good length ball, just marginally away from the body, he induced a faint edge from Joe Root to reduce England to 85/3 - a competitive advantage for the visitors. Burns, however, was waging a lone battle at the other end, picking and choosing the bowlers on merit. His partnership with Ollie Pope stabilized the proceedings for England. Even though Matt Henry was pitching it up more with a scrambled seam and thus, conclusively extracting more false shots, the duo manfully navigated through that phase, perhaps waiting to pick up against Ajaz Patel. The memories of Nathan Lyon running through the English batting order in the 2019 Edgbaston Test must’ve crept into English fans’ minds the moment Ajaz Patel dismissed Pope. However, it was a returning Boult who did the maximum carnage.
In the third session, Boult got the better of both Burns and James Bracey to leave the English team in further trouble. At 175/6, it was too big an ask for an out-of-form Daniel Lawrence to get the things back on track with the help of tail-enders but he did an admirable job of staying firm to add 47 runs for the seventh wicket. Watching Lawrence bat the way he did, it didn’t seem like he was the same batsman who poked at the fifth and sixth stump deliveries in the previous Test and was under considerable pressure coming to Birmingham.
By bringing up his third Test half-century, Lawrence salvaged England’s pride. One needs to give it to him for how he played Boult and Henry despite the duo targeting his weakness right from the beginning. The Essex middle-order batter worked on his foot movement to cut the off-stump line and played close to the body to frustrate the Kiwis.
He found fantastic support from the likes of Olly Stone and Mark Wood towards the end as the hosts ended the day with 258/7 - a definitive position of strength from which they can easily build on Day 2.