England’s middle order

At 30/4 the first thought to cross the mind was the number of balls that would be taken by either Martin Guptill or Brendon McCullum, though he wasn’t slated to open, to overhaul the England score.

Lord’s is a ground that has seen performances which can delight many. It’s a ground where the captain of the present England team averages not more than 2 runs per innings than the number 11 batsman of the present team. At 30/4, that’s not a stat you want. At 25/3, strode in a batsman whom many consider to be among the best today – Joe Root. The first scoring shot he played today was a picture perfect cover drive. That he has two centuries at Lord’s and averages close to 100 runs a game is the stat that England would’ve wanted to seek comfort in, at that moment.

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Ian Bell was cleaned up by the debutant – Mark Henry – with an unplayable delivery. It pitched on the off stump line and straightened just a touch to hit the top of off. That dismissal prolongs the horror run for Bell. He, now, has 1 run in his last three innings. At the fall of his wicket came Stokes. Stokes batting at 6 was an accident because Moeen Ali, confident in the batsmen above him, went to the nets and didn’t come back till the fall of the fourth wicket. Stokes had a horror summer last year at home. He didn’t trouble the scorers in each of the three innings he came out to bat in against India. His last two innings at Lord’s yielded him no runs – He got a pair in the last Test he played at Lord’s.

As he got confident at the crease, he looked like the force of nature England would need in the absence of Kevin Pietersen. His first authoritative stroke was a hook off Mark Henry. Though the pace bowlers failed to trouble him, his lack of scoring shots against the spinners might be an aspect he would like to improve. Perhaps the New Zealand seamers had his dismissal in the second innings v India at the same ground, last year, in mind as the kept on banging it short to him. Stokes, expectedly, fed off the short deliveries as he hooked and pulled with authority rarely seen in him. It was also baffling to see the line bowled by the New Zealand bowlers to him – a lot of the balls were pitched on the leg stump or outside the leg stump. No wonder then that Stokes got 70% of his runs on the leg side.

Early last year, Martin Crowe rated Joe Root as one of the four best young batsmen in the world. He bears no resemblance to the batsman who saw his average drop by 6 runs in 10 consecutive tests against Australia. After that horror run, he seems to have made the number 5 position in the batting order all his own. He has scored all but one of his centuries from number 5. It seems as if he reads the game well from that position. Today too, while Stokes was taking his time to get his eye in, Root went on the offensive and had the bowlers on the backfoot going into lunch. After lunch, Stokes attacked and he took a backseat. He had a good partnership with Buttler after Stokes’ dismissal. Buttler looked confident till the last over of the innings. In that last over, he looked like a man who would require the help of a nightwatchman for the rest of his career in the overs that bring the day to a close.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler during the England v New Zealand 1st Investec Test match, day one at Lords Cricket Ground, on May 21, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Moeen Ali,Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali, looked assured in his stay at the crease. He chose the balls he wanted to attack and was solid in defence. Perhaps, the shot of the day was his cover drive off Boult. He would want to resume from where he left off tomorrow. A lot hinges on how he plays in the first hour on the second day.

The first hour today must have sent shockwaves but these four batsmen have proved that the middle and lower middle order is in safe hands in the years to come.

Image courtesy : gettyimages.com

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