'Now you know what it's like, bro' - Kane Williamson to Devon Conway on Lord's honours

Having waited so long for Test debut, opener etches his name on away room board at first attempt

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Devon Conway has had to wait a long time for his chance in Test cricket. He moved from his native South Africa in his mid-20s to try to establish himself in a new country, then had to serve a three-year period before becoming eligible to represent New Zealand. He made his T20I debut last year and an ODI debut in March (current averages: 59.12 and 75.00), before being called into the Test squad to tour England.
Once over here, there was another wait to see whether he would get his chance - finally confirmed by New Zealand's coach, Gary Stead, a couple of days out from the Lord's Test and made public on the eve of the match by captain Kane Williamson. Then, after finally donning the whites and walking down the steps to the middle after Williamson had won the toss, Conway waited patiently at the non-striker's end as Tom Latham faced 18 consecutive deliveries from James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
It proved well worth the wait for Conway, who finished his first day in Test cricket 136 not out, having marshalled a strong showing for New Zealand from start to finish. "It was a pretty surreal moment, I couldn't have dreamed for a better start to my Test career," he said afterwards.
"It took maybe three or four overs to face my first ball, but I was pretty grateful for that. It gave me an opportunity to have look at the bowling from the non-striker's end. I've never faced Broady and Anderson [before], so it gave me a chance to see how it was going off the wicket and get some clues from Tommy Latham. The communication was good and clear, so it gave me a chance before that first ball."
The details of Conway's decision to move from Gauteng, having struggled to break through from South Africa's provincial set-up, to then churning out so many runs it was impossible for New Zealand to ignore him have been well rehearsed. But to have walked straight into the Test arena and onto the Lord's honours board is something beyond the imaginations of most.
"That [scoring a century on debut] never came across my mind," Conway said. "Just getting a Test debut, a chance to play at this level, was all I thought about. Very happy, grateful for the opportunity from Cricket Wellington and also the Black Caps as well. A pretty special feeling, and one I certainly didn't think about when I made that move.
"When we arrived at Lord's a couple days ago we walked into the changing room and got the opportunity to have a look at the all the legends and the names up on that honours board. Funny enough I had a conversation with Kane asking what it feels like to see your name on that board [for Williamson's hundred at Lord's in 2015], and the first thing he said when I went up into the changing room was 'Now you know what it's like, bro'. It's pretty cool, it's a great place and I'm grateful my name can go up there."
Besides having his name forever etched in the away dressing room, several other records fell to Conway, who was 136 not out overnight: the highest score by a debutant at Lord's, eclipsing Sourav Ganguly's arrival on the ground in 1996; the first overseas opener ever to score a century on debut in England; the fourth-highest score by a New Zealand debutant, with power to add.
A career No. 3, Conway said he "tried to not think it was too much different to what I've experienced in the past" when told he would be opening the batting alongside Latham. One thing that was different, however, was the lower bounce at Lord's, which led to his one sustained period of difficulty against the pace of Mark Wood.
"It was a challenge, because he was really digging it in. The nature of the bounce where I've grown up is, with that sort of length, you trust it going over the top of you and I didn't quite realise when he digs it in that short it's still only going to be chest or head height. Once I wore one or two on the body it was about coming up with Plan B here. The positions I was getting into was probably not ideal, so I thought just trust it and take it on. He's pretty quick but it's about being nice and still, being positive and making a quick decision."
Conway also showed the faith in his game gained through a 108-match first-class career that started back in 2009 to respond to the demands of the situation. After going to lunch having scored 43 out of New Zealand's 85 for 1, he retrenched as England claimed the wickets of Williamson and Ross Taylor during the early afternoon, adding just 28 runs in the session to ensure his team's advantage was not lost. Then, just when it seemed he could be becalmed, Conway kicked on again during the evening and needed just 22 balls to accelerate from 77 to his hundred.
"The biggest thing I've been working on is my mindset, trying to keep positive throughout," he said. "Last thing I want to do is get tentative, and if I'm in a look-to-score mindset, that gets me in the best positions, the decision-making is a bit clearer and that's when I'm at my best. That might be my strength right now.
"There was a lovely period from about 70 when I got balls in my areas, so I tried to stay positive. When I got to that moment I didn't overthink it, it was about acknowledging but still sticking with the job. It'll take a few days to sink in, but a pretty awesome day."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick