Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell shared an excellent unbeaten partnership on day two of the first Test at Lord’s between England and New Zealand
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What a difference a day makes.
And as they watched Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell build a potentially match-winning partnership of 180 that has turned a first innings lead of nine for England into a deficit of 227 so far, they will be kicking themselves that it wasn’t their batsmen enjoying the friendlier conditions.
Had their batsmen managed to knuckle down like this in the final session on day one, it could have been them in the driving seat with power to add. Instead the Kiwis are 236-4 with Mitchell 97 not out and Blundell 90 not out, with just one over of the old ball to come on Saturday.
After a day and a half played in fast forward, a proper Test match broke out at cricket HQ much to the relief of punters with tickets for days three and four. The loss of England’s last three wickets for the addition of 25 runs gave them a slender lead, but opened the door to queries about the last two day Test on these shores back in 2000 against the West Indies.
And the excitement continued to build as New Zealand were reduced to 35-3 and 56-4 soon after lunch. With Matt Potts picking up where he left off on his first day as a Test cricketer by dismissing Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson for the second time in the match for just 15, his and England’s tails were up.
But if there is one thing that Potts will do well to learn as soon as possible, it is that Test cricket is never plain sailing for England, no matter how good things might look. We saw another Matt bowling for England for the first time as concussion sub Parkinson sent down 14 overs but without too much joy on an early summer pitch.
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Life as an English leg spinner is hard enough at the best of times, but when you are under more scoreboard pressure than the batsmen it is even harder. New coach Brendon McCullum is hoping to reinvigorate England’s Test fortunes by making the players feel ‘ten feet tall’ when they take the field and that approach will have its moments.
But for all the talk about a positive attitude and freeing up the players to express themselves there is another Kiwi quality that McCullum would do well to instil as soon as possible – the ability to punch above their weight.
How else do you explain how this land of the long white cloud with an entire population about half that of London’s can find gem after gem to battle so brilliantly in the heat of the international arena?
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This time it was Mitchell and Blundell, two solid yet unspectacular players who simply got on with the job of keeping the good balls out and scoring runs where they could. Mitchell would not have played in this match had Henry Nicholls been fit and available, but having been given his chance he is certainly taking it.
After all this was the same Mitchell who was handed the job of opener for the first time at the T20 World Cup last year and put England away in the semi-final with a brilliant 72 not out.
He is an unassuming character whose father John coached the All Blacks in rugby union and is currently an assistant coach at Wasps, and a Test century at Lord’s might deservedly take the title of the family’s proudest sporting moment.