“Boult once again proved his worth in gold and delivered one of the most mesmerising spells in the history of Test cricket”.
Prior to the start of the Test series, there were talks about the Kiwi pace troika wreaking havoc against the star-studded English line-up. The deadly pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult has been the talk of the town for a while now and the presence of a confident Neil Wagner has only added more firepower to their attack. After an intense ODI series, where England won 3-2, the momentum was with the visiting side while New Zealand needed an emphatic start to the Test series.
The pitch at Eden Park had a grass covering over it, which was going to bring the seamers into play. And to add to New Zealand’s good fortunes, they won the toss and as expected opted to bowl first. Considering the conditions, many anticipated Kiwi bowlers to chip early wickets but none would have expected them to cause the kind of damage they inflicted. English batsmen had no answers to the deadly duo of Boult and Southee as they quickly ran out of options.
They wrapped up the English line-up for 58 runs inside the first session, in fact, England were precariously placed at 27 for 9, but Craig Overton’s cameo helped his side to cross the 50-run mark. A bowler of Boult’s calibre was always going to pose a massive threat on this wicket. There was some help on the surface for the seamers to exploit, and Boult-Southee did well to reap fruitful results out of it.
Boult kept it pretty simple; he pitched the ball up on a two-paced wicket. He didn’t experiment a lot and there wasn’t a lot of swing to offer. He got rid of the misfiring Alastair Cook in his third over and produced a peach of a delivery to get rid of English skipper Joe Root to get things going. Root was England’s biggest hope on such a wicket and his early kill was always going to be a boon for New Zealand. Boult ensured that Root didn’t disturb the scorers and handed him a six-ball duck. In his next over, Boult also sent Dawid Malan back to the pavilion for 2.
Boult wasn’t done yet, Ben Stokes was undone with another gem as he got the ball to swing into the left-hander and rip through his defence to kiss the timber. Chris Woakes and James Anderson also fell prey to Boult’s persistence as the left-arm pacer recorded his finest Test figures of 6 for 32. Such was the impact of these two bowlers that Kane Williamson didn’t feel the need to introduce a third bowler into the attack and went for the kill by letting these two put in the hard yards for almost 21 overs. Boult was well supported by Tim Southee from the other end, who maintained the pressure and chipped four wickets.
At 23 for 8, New Zealand almost gave England their worst ever nightmare of registering their lowest Test score ever of 26. But Overton did some repair work. It was no less than a dream for the Kiwi supporters when the scoreboard read 27 for 9. And Boult admitted that this was beyond his wildest dreams to get rid of the English line-up inside a session. There were as many as five ducks in the English batting card, which speaks volumes about the kind of impact Kiwi bowlers had.
“Not in our wildest dreams did we think we’d win the toss and get them out in the first session. It was good fun. To not let the foot off the throat and not let the pressure off them. I saw the scoreboard of 23 for 8 at one point, was pretty surreal. We just tried to pitch the ball up. In all honesty, I don’t think it swung that much. The cliche of it just doing enough is what happened. It was nice to see a couple of nicks carry through but to disturb the woodwork, always a nice feeling as well,” Boult was quoted in a report from Cricbuzz.
“The ones when you are working towards a plan and it literally happens in front of your eyes is probably the best feeling. Very good fun. To see the zinger [bails] light up put a smile on my face and it’s very satisfying. But I don’t want to sit here and sound like I’m a magician of any sort. That one [Stokes] probably felt a bit better than the Joe Root one. One of those feelings, one of those days, one of those mornings. Just very cool to be out there,” Boult added.
There was slight movement with the pink ball, which turned out to be enough for Kiwi seamers to rattle through the English line-up. Yes, English batsmen could have a better job than what they eventually did, some did exhibit poor technique and played poor shots, but credit must be given to Boult and Southee for creating that kind of pressure. Boult once again proved his worth in gold and delivered one of the most mesmerising spells in the history of Test cricket. Riding on Kane Williamson’s outstanding innings, New Zealand have gained a healthy lead and it will be interesting to see how Boult fares in the second innings.