1st Test (D/N), Mount Maunganui, February 16 - 19, 2023, England tour of New Zealand
325/9d & 374
(T:394) 306 & 126

England won by 267 runs

Player Of The Match
89 & 54

England strike under the lights after Harry Brook, Ben Duckett cut loose

New Zealand on the ropes after high-octane opening day to pink-ball Test

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Harry Brook brought up another half-century for England  •  Getty Images

Harry Brook brought up another half-century for England  •  Getty Images

New Zealand 37 for 3 (Conway 17*, Wagner 4*) trail England 325 for 9 dec (Brook 89, Duckett 84) by 288 runs
Another day, another display of genre-busting Test cricket from England's incorrigible Bazballers.
Which aspect of this latest instalment most tickles your fancy? The idea that either or both of Ben Duckett and Harry Brook could, and maybe at least one of them should, have crushed Gilbert Jessop's 121-year-old, 76-ball record for the fastest England hundred? Or what about the sight of Joe Root, England's modern great Test batter, being caught at slip while attempting a ramp shot on the first afternoon of a Test?
Or how about Ben Stokes' latest captaincy pièce de résistance - a first-innings declaration after a mere 58.2 overs, the second-quickest such gesture in Test history? England by that stage had romped along to a typically freestyle 325 for 9, at a rate of 5.77 an over, and with arguably only Ollie Pope the victim of anything that could conventionally be described as old-school bowling "pressure". When your minds are as free as lads on a golfing holiday, an attack featuring two nervy debutants holds few fears, notwithstanding the enduring class of Tim Southee and the indefatigable Neil Wagner.
England's innings wasn't quite as eye-popping as their last first day of a series - their 506 for 4 in Rawalpindi in December - but its denouement was notable in its own right. It's hard even to classify their declaration as a "gamble", given England's high-rolling Test lifestyle, but it was a typically calculated move from Stokes. It left New Zealand facing a 90-minute examination under Mount Maunganui's full-beam floodlights, and by the time they had tottered to 37 for 3 in 18 overs before the close, it had paid rich and irresistible dividends.
Ollie Robinson - already regarded by his team-mates as the equal of his seniors James Anderson and Stuart Broad - wasn't kept waiting long to live up to his heightened status. Introduced for the fifth over, he duly struck with his third ball as Tom Latham fenced limply to short leg, whereupon the ageless Anderson switched ends to pluck out two of New Zealand's batting mainstays with the typically miserly figures of 2 for 11 in seven overs.
Though he was denied the early wicket of Devon Conway by a bad drop from Zak Crawley at second slip, Crawley soon made it up to his team-mate with a tougher take to see off Henry Nicholls, by which stage Anderson had already landed the biggest fish, Kane Williamson for 6, via a successfully reviewed lbw. Those two scalps, incidentally, carried Broad and Anderson's partnership haul to 999 and counting… at some stage on Friday, you'd expect them to reach four figures, let alone McGrath and Warne's record of 1001.
Floodlit cricket is a new enough concept to sand many of the edges off Test cricket's conventions, but this was another remarkable day in the life of Stokes' England team. After losing a toss that neither captain really wanted to win, they were asked to bat first on a pitch that, last week, was being battered by Cyclone Gabrielle. Even this line-up might have been permitted some misgivings in such circumstances - especially when Crawley ran out of lives inside the third over, after surviving clear chances in each of the first two.
But instead, the jeopardy merely emboldened England to "run towards the danger", as their team mantra would have it. And not even the post-tea streaker who briefly troubled the stewards could have run with more alacrity than Duckett and Brook - two of the outstanding performers in England's 3-0 series win in Pakistan before Christmas, whose confidence in both their own form and the team cause was plain for all to see.
Duckett's first meaningful act of the match was to rub salt in New Zealand's gaping wounds, specifically those of Wagner, who thought he had bowled Crawley with a perfect first-ball inswinger, only for the moment to be struck off for a front-foot no-ball.
It was a morale-crushing moment for Wagner, a man unfamiliar with the new-ball honours given New Zealand's traditional riches in that department. But with Trent Boult overlooked and Matt Henry on paternity leave, Wagner's response was a hot-headed search for a magic ball of atonement - his best work would have to wait until the back-end of the innings, when he reverted to that familiar pitch-battering line with the dog-eared old ball, and scalped four late wickets.
Instead, Southee turned to Blair Tickner, the first of his two debutants, whose opening gambit was loose and nervy - not least his third over, which Duckett drilled for four fours in five balls. His fast hands and combative attitude propelled him to a 36-ball half-century - the fastest by an England opener - and Jessop-watch was in full swing until he climbed through one too many drives and picked out Michael Bracewell in the covers to hand Tickner his maiden wicket.
The second session belonged to Brook, though not before England had offered New Zealand a glimpse of respite. In the hour after tea, they slid from a formidable base of 152 for 2 to a mid-session nadir of 209 for 5, when Stokes scuffed an over-eager pull straight at short midwicket to hand New Zealand's second debutant Scott Kuggeleijn a notable first scalp.
By this stage, Root - the other established great in England's ranks - had come and gone in a devil-may-care innings of 14 from 22 balls that featured one successful reverse-ramp for four over deep third off Neil Wagner, and one less successful, as Wagner fired the ball out a touch wider of off stump, for Daryl Mitchell to pre-empt the under-edged chance with a dive to his right at slip.
If there is occasionally a sense that England are in danger of over-reaching themselves with this bold new attitude, it had been heightened one over prior to Root's dismissal, when Pope - quietly in control of his own tempo on 42 from 65 balls - seemed to be spooked by the notion of eight dot-balls in ten deliveries from the unrelenting Southee, and steered his next to slip.
And yet, if England are wont to die by the sword, then they are equally determined to live their best lives by it in between whiles. And no-one is living a better one right now than Brook, who had been romping towards his fourth hundred in as many Tests before Wagner induced him to drag another dirty bomb onto his own stumps.
Had he managed to do so, in only his seventh innings, Brook would have secured his status as the most precocious new boy in Test history - George Headley, Sunil Gavaskar and Vinod Kambli all took eight innings to reach the same mark. As it is, he can still boast some of the most startling form of all time - 569 runs at 81.28, and an astonishing strike-rate of 94.51 that was bolstered here by 14 fours, the majority crushed through point, and a towering six down the ground off Southee that evoked nothing less than Kevin Pietersen in his pomp. With a week to go until his 24th birthday, Brook is the future of England's batting… and with increasing surety, its present too.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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