Thursday 14 November 2019

Stokes stirs England to remarkable triumph

England's Ben Stokes celebrates after dismissing New Zealand's Mark Craig
England's Ben Stokes celebrates after dismissing New Zealand's Mark Craig

Scyld Berry

It was not simply a day but a whole match of regeneration.

When Moeen Ali sprinted backwards and leaped to catch New Zealand's last man to win the first Test by 124 runs, it capped England's happiest week in the 18 months since Mitchell Johnson unleashed his thunderbolts in Brisbane.

Not only were England regenerated; so, too, was Test cricket itself.

Young and old attended the last day for free, making a total of 125,000 for the finest of the early-season Lord's Tests since they began in 2000.

The pendulum swung from one country to the other and back and, while the ball dominated at the beginning and end, some glorious batting in between made for the highest run-aggregate in any Lord's Test.

Of this truly wonderful match there was no question who was the man.

Ben Stokes, who possessed the killer instinct which was missing a year ago, began it by counter-attacking when England were 30 for four - the darkest hour was indeed before dawn.


Then, his all-out assault in the second-fastest Test century for England gave his team extra time and 77 overs in which to dismiss New Zealand, of which they were to need all but 9.3.

Exactly a year ago on this ground, England had failed in similar circumstances to polish off Sri Lanka.

England's new ball bowlers had begun superbly by taking three wickets, pitching the ball up at long last, but no wickets fell during the afternoon session - except for the two key wickets that Stokes blasted out in his double-wicket maiden over.

Here was an elemental force at work, rousing the instincts of the crowd.

Stokes, having taken three Test wickets since Christmas, charged in from the Nursery end and with successive balls dismissed Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum.

Around such a talismanic all-rounder, an excellent Test team can be built.

The day began with England losing their last four wickets for 49 runs in 11 overs, with Trent Boult taking four wickets for nine on the day.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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