Matt Henry shares the new ball. Oyster-grey skies above Edgbaston. Big swing, too much for Henry to control on his sixth-stump line. Wide. Sibley works two through midwicket but Henry’s line is generally unthreatening and Sibley gives the full face to a couple but lets the others through to Blundell to take in front of second slip.
Rory Burns takes guard against Trent Boult. Three slips and a gully. Sibley still has the dust of Lord’s on his sleeveless sweater from diving headlong to make his ground in the second innings. Boult starts with a hooping away swinger and Burns lets it pass. It’s only gentle swing, easily coverable so far and Burns blocks the second because it starts on middle. He’s scrambling the seam. Good shape. Burns defends another, plays and misses, leaves one then runs the last ball between third slip and gully off the back foot for four.
For ‘the moment of unity’ – very loud applause from the crowd for the players. England are wearing Tshirts which have ‘Cricket is a a game for everyone’. On the back of the shirts are a range of messages ‘We stand together against … transphobia, ageism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance etc.’
A resounding reception for the teams and their stance and, of course, for Jimmy Anderson.
With Mark Wood at eight and they have gone for two express pace bowlers and no front-line spinners. NZ rest and rotate before next week’s WTC final against India at Lord’s. Perhaps a draw at HQ wasn’t such a bad result after all.
And welcome to live coverage from Edgbaston of the second Test between England and New Zealand and James Anderson’s record-breaking 162nd Test for England. The series is poised at 0-0 after the rain-affected draw at Lord’s and a tornado of, in my opinion unjustified, context-light, criticism of England’s decision not to attempt to chase 273 off 75 overs on the Sunday at Lord’s swirling around Joe Root’s head.
On the back of three batting collapses in India, facing the very good attack of a side ranked higher than them, with no fielding restrictions or one-day wide regulations plus four years of condemnation for their gung-ho approach and demand for more doggedness in their batting, they find themselves in the position of being damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If those who use words such as ‘spineless’ to trash their approach are prepared to pile praise on Zak Crawley for his stroke in getting out in the second innings, throwing his hands at a drive to play an entertaining, attacking shot, I think their argument would hold more water. But at the moment I think it lacks all logic. With England’s current batting line-up there is no option to go for it then ‘shut up shop’ if it doesn’t work and they lose wickets. The players capable of gusting it out for a draw are the two openers, not the flashy five, six and seven.
Anyhow … this is NewZealand’s first Test at Edgbaston since 1999’s defeat when that cad Graham Thorpe hit the winning runs and stranded his Surrey team-mate Alex Tudor on 99*. Tudor’s innings was the only high spot of a truly dismal summer for the hosts after their World Cup humiliation, the disintegration of Nasser Hussain’s index finger and a Test series in limbo waiting for Duncan Fletcher to serve out his Glamorgan contract. If any series was putting people off the England team and Test cricket, it was that one, the last gasp of the pre-central contract age.
Today there will be 18,000 spectators inside Edgbaston and thousands of more would have been delighted to have the opportunity of being there. Test cricket in England is still in a robust shape after 22 years of progress since dropping to the bottom of the rankings in 1999. Kane Williamson is absent, as is England’s best player at Lord’s, the debutant Ollie Robinson, suspended for his offensive remarks at the age of 18. Trent Boult is back, Anderson supersedes Sir Alastair Cook and Root has a point to prove and a series to win. Play!