New Zealand 246 for 3 (Conway 136*, Nicholls 46*) vs England
An unbeaten hundred from New Zealand's debutant opener, Devon Conway, set the platform for the visiting side as the return of Test cricket to Lord's was marked by a day of hard yakka in the field for England. Ollie Robinson, another man on Test debut, claimed two of the three wickets to fall before a century stand for the fourth wicket between Conway and Henry Nicholls put New Zealand in control of proceedings.
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 - despite a placid surface of the variety that Chris Silverwood and Joe Root have called for as they seek to develop a side capable of winning attritional cricket away from the green fields of home.
But Conway, the 29-year-old South African-born batter who spent three years qualifying for New Zealand on residency, produced a near-faultless performance after being brought into the side as Tom Latham's newest opening partner, as he and Nicholls ground down England's four-man seam attack. Not for nothing are New Zealand, who have perfected the blueprint of capitalising on favourable batting conditions and then transferring pressure on to the opposition, over here to contest the World Test Championship final.
Conway was fluent throughout, capably adjusting his tempo according to the situation - he scored just four runs in a 50-minute period after lunch during which Kane Williamson was dismissed, before driving Stuart Broad for the boundary that brought up his fifty.
And there were no nerves as he moved through the 90s in the space of 10 balls, a flamingo-flicked boundary through backward square leg off Robinson taking him to three figures and a place on the Lord's honours board. In the process, he became the 12th man to score a hundred on Test debut for New Zealand, and the sixth man to do so at Lord's; no overseas opener had ever achieved the feat previously in England.
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. Conway came to England for his maiden Test tour in possession of one of the most-formidable first-class records in the world, having churned out runs in New Zealand's domestic circuit while serving his qualification period. For Wellington, he has scored more than 2000 runs at 66.25, and his Test debut had become a matter of when rather than if.
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. When he had made 77, a flick off Robinson flew past the diving Zak Crawley at leg slip, and a top-edged swipe at Wood just cleared the leap of wicketkeeper James Bracey after he 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; England found his pads on a few occasions, but the one time they did review, Wood's delivery was found to have pitched outside leg stump.
The morning began with Lord's relaxing into a Test match routine for the first time since the 2019 Ashes - albeit on a smaller scale, with crowd capacity capped at 25% due to Covid-19 restrictions. After England's 2020 international summer was played entirely behind closed doors, the atmosphere was lively and expectant, though some way removed from the fevered scenes that accompanied New Zealand's last trip to Lord's for the World Cup final two years ago.
As he did on that day, Williamson won the toss and chose to bat - the traditional approach in Tests and never an easier decision than on a bright, sunny morning in St John's Wood. New Zealand were trying out their fourth opening partnership since England toured there in late 2019, but Conway and Latham immediately slipped into a groove together, adding a 58-run stand in even time as England's venerable new-ball pair of James Anderson and Broad searched - largely in vain - for signs of seam and swing.
Unusually, Anderson opted to open the bowling from the Nursery End, with Broad running in from in front of the Pavilion. The experiment did not last long, however, with Joe Root bringing on Robinson in the 10th over and switching Broad's end. Robinson started with a front-foot no-ball but soon found his rhythm, nibbling the ball both ways in the channel outside off - and he made the breakthrough for England in his fourth over, a hint of seam movement taking the ball into Latham's timbers via an inside edge.
With Lord's beginning to look like one of the shirtfronts that were familiar here during the 2000s, New Zealand reached lunch on 85 for 1. Their equilibrium was briefly disturbed when Williamson made a rare misjudgement to his first ball after the interval, steering a delivery from Anderson down into his off stump, and Robinson then continued his encouraging first appearance in Test whites by trapping Ross Taylor lbw to end a skittish innings. But New Zealand were just getting started, and Conway remains far from finished.
England vs New Zealand
New Zealand in England
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick