When rain spoiled the third day of the first Test at Lord’s, a draw was always on the cards, but the matter of interest was how the Test would end – whether it would witness all four innings played or not. In the end, all four innings were played, courtesy of a bold declaration by Kane Williamson on the final day giving England 273 to win from the 75 overs.

Very few captains these days would be bold enough like Williamson – the declaration was as bold as Imran Khan and Mark Taylor. The Test match became exciting but the English batters remained resilient enough to end the day safely.

Since the COVID-19 out broke, cricket did not visit Lord’s and its return to the Mecca of cricket was celebrated with some brilliant batting and bowling display.

There was that Devon Conway, who made his first-class debut for Gauteng back in 2009 at the age of 17 and was still batting at number three 3 for his school St John’s College. In the years since, he had played for at least 21 different teams in three different countries, had spells in the franchise and provincial cricket in South Africa, done stretches in the Lancashire League, the East Anglian League, the West of England League, and the Northern Premier League, taken two turns in Somerset’s second XI, and worked his way up from club cricket through to first-class cricket and then into the international set-up in New Zealand.

Phew, now, that was one hell of a journey to build a career in cricket and one could guess, he broke down a lot of sweat to type his name on the Lord’s Honours Board.

On Day 1, with the scoreboard on 113 for 3 midway through the afternoon session, and with New Zealand’s three most-experienced batters back in the dressing room, England would have aspired for a firmer foothold in the match – but Conway produced a neat performance after being brought into the side as Tom Latham’s newest opening partner, as he and Nicholls tested England’s four-man seam attack, where the inclusion of Jack Leach would have been ideal.

Not for nothing are New Zealand, who have perfected the blueprint of capitalizing on favourable batting conditions and then transferring pressure on to the opposition, over here to contest the World Test Championship final.

Conway’s day began with a wait of three full overs before he faced a ball. But then he has long learned the value of patience.

He barely gave a chance during a full day in the middle, although he was briefly discomforted by a short-ball barrage during Mark Wood’s opening spell, in which the England quick was clocked at 96mph/154kph.

A top-edged swipe at Wood just cleared the leap of wicketkeeper James Bracey after Conway had brought up his century.

Nicholls was the man out in the middle to congratulate Conway when he reached his landmark, warmly applauded by the New Zealand balcony as well as the 6,700 spectators allowed into Lord’s. New Zealand’s No. 5 was happy to play the foil as he batted unobtrusively through the evening session to finish within sight of a fifty of his own.

Nicholls was the spine of the Kiwi innings and when he was dismissed on Day 2, it left to Conway lead the way.

He notched up a glorious double ton and became only the second player to score a double century on Test debut for New Zealand. Matthew Sinclair became the first when he scored 214 against West Indies in 1999.

Till now, 5 players have scored a century in their maiden innings in men’s Tests before Conway. Seven players have a double century on debut in men’s Tests, including 210 not out by Kyle Mayers during the second essay. Conway is also the oldest of the seven players with a double hundred on debut, at 29 years and 329 days old at the start of the match.

Again, two openers who have smashed a double century on Test debut, with Conway being one of them. Sri Lankan opener Brendon Kuruppu ended up with an unbeaten 201 in his debut Test against New Zealand in 1987.

Mark Wood showed his class on Day 2 while another debutante Ollie Robinson responded well since Day 1 despite criticism over his controversial tweets back in 2012.

But despite admitting to being “ashamed” and “embarrassed”, Robinson sustained his impressive on-field performance from the previous day. He demonstrated good skill and control in claiming four wickets in New Zealand’s first innings and, but for a dropped catch by Stuart Broad, would have made it onto the Lord’s honours board.

Then comes the Wood factor, whose pace broke the stubborn resistance of the visiting batters. There were the skills and experience of James Anderson and Stuart Broad; but at times, the lively pace is required on placid decks and that was where Wood proved a point.

England fought back into the game, but when they came out to bat, the whole batting unit fell in the mud.

New Zealand bowled with intent and the English batting lineup melted under pressure.

Rory Burns had other ideas.

He put a price tag on his wicket.

From his batting stance to executing strokes and moving the feet; the mechanism of Burns’ batting is complicated, but if a batter is comfortable with it and delivers, then none can talk despite the element of risks.

His eight previous Test innings had realized just 78 runs (including three ducks) and, by the time England’s tour of India had finished, he had lost his place in the side.

But just as he won his first call-up through the weight of runs – he had recorded 1,000 runs in a season for five successive years – he went back to the county game and scored heavily. He has reached 50 seven times in 10 innings in the Championship season. Nobody in the competition has reached 50 as often this year. He earned this recall.

Burns worked for his runs rather than being a modern-day bloody fluent rascal – while his first 50 took a relatively fluent 90 deliveries, his second took 177. It was needed because the attempts of trying to be like a fluent rascal and concentrating on the strike-rates, would have invited trouble for England.

A grinding hundred came up and it saved England from humiliation.

Resolve was his game plan and it paid off.

“It was a bit of a grind,” Burns admitted later.

“They tried to dry me up and bowl at other guys in the order. It was like they were waiting for me to make a mistake. I found it quite difficult to get into a rhythm.”

“But we needed those runs today. So, it’s nice to contribute. And it’s nice to take the opportunity I’ve been given [on recall].”

“You try and stay level. Some days you get good balls. Some days you nick one and get dropped and end up getting a hundred. You have to stay level.”

He could – probably should – have been stumped on 77 (when Mitchell Santner saw him coming down the pitch and pushed the ball wider), caught on 88 (when he fenced at one which reared on him from the excellent Tim Southee) and was twice struck on the helmet (once by Southee; once by Kyle Jamieson) as he attempted to hook. He was also fortunate, on 80, to see a top-edged pull fall safely.

Well, it was his day.

Of course, Robinson gave him great support while batting at number eight!

Tim Southee bowled with skill and guile to claim a six-wicket haul – the second time he had done so at this ground.

New Zealand declared in search of a win, but the Test ended up with the memories of some great individual displays.

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