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Plenty to satisfy Kane Williamson despite New Zealand's victory push being thwarted

The visitors made a very positive declaration on the final day but the pitch did not deteriorate as expected

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Neil Wagner celebrates with team-mates after claiming the wicket of Rory Burns  •  Getty Images

Neil Wagner celebrates with team-mates after claiming the wicket of Rory Burns  •  Getty Images

New Zealand were left to rue a day lost to rain as their attempts to engineer victory came up short at Lord's, but captain Kane Williamson praised the "superb cricket" played by his team after they controlled large stretches of the first Test against England.
Powered by Devon Conway's double hundred on debut - described by Williamson as an "amazing innings" - and a Tim Southee six-for, New Zealand came into the fifth day sitting on a 165-run lead but with a tricky calculation about how to set up a contest. An attacking declaration after rain brought about an early lunch left them with potentially 75 overs in which to try and take ten wickets, only for a pitch that had only undergone four days of wear to neuter chances of a result for either side.
"As we know in Test cricket you have your ebbs and blow but coming into day [five] and having a bit of work to do in that morning session to give ourselves a chance, I thought the guys played some superb cricket throughout to give us that potential opportunity," Williamson said. "Unfortunately it wasn't to be today, losing a day to weather doesn't help the cause but I thought the efforts were certainly there.
"We made the decision based on what gave us potentially the best chance to win the game, or enough overs [to take the wickets]. We knew losing a day was going to be tough but we wanted to give it a crack. Unfortunately towards the end things fizzled out a bit, we were expecting the pitch to deteriorate a bit more and it did show signs on day four in particular that that was going to happen, but it sort of flattened out."
England would have needed to score at more than 3.5 runs an over to achieve their chase but they took a safety-first approach and ultimately were content to bat out two sessions for a draw - a measure, perhaps, of how dominant New Zealand had been. And even after an 80-run partnership between Dom Sibley and Joe Root seemed to have made the game safe, Williamson's bowlers kept the pressure on deep into the final hour.
"We declared for a reason and that was to try and push for a victory," Williamson said. "Although it seemed unlikely for a period, if one spun out of the rough or you were able to open up an end, then things could happen reasonably quickly, and we were holding on to that hope for as long as we could. But clearly things became quite docile out there.
"It's always tough to know how an opposition will look to attack a chase, obviously all three results still possible. If we were in that positon, you do want to get a really good base and try to take the game to a deep stage where you might have a smaller chase of less overs but throw all your resource at it. Clearly there was a lot of work to do to get to that, a lot of overs left and I think both sides were expecting the pitch to deteriorate more.
"It kind of ebbed and flowed, and scoring wasn't quick throughout. We felt if we could pick up wickets throughout that would give us the best opportunity and life could be quite difficult, but that wasn't the case. Things didn't perhaps unfold for either side."
In keeping with New Zealand's respectful off-field demeanour, Williamson played down any suggestion the tourists would carry an advantage with them to Edgbaston, and focused on the need to "start again" and adjust to the conditions in Birmingham.
After Conway's stunning introduction to Test cricket, New Zealand have seemingly ticked off another selection issue as they build towards the World Test Championship final against India later this month. The seam attack also functioned well, with Southee producing another performance worthy of the honours board, Kyle Jamieson impressive in adapting to opening the bowling with the Dukes ball - as well as handling the Lord's slope - and Neil Wagner giving a reminder of his skill as a swing bowler, besides his more muscular qualities.
The arrival of Trent Boult in the UK will only strengthen that area of the side, although the focus will be on building up the left-armer's workload following a break from the game back home, rather than rushing him back into the side for Edgbaston.
One area which may be up for discussion is Mitchell Santner's role, although Williamson described the spinning allrounder as "a really important" in helping to balance the side. Santner has only played two Test matches in the last 18 months and, having had to deal with a cut to his spinning finger sustained during a warm-up match, produced a slightly scattergun showing with the ball on the final day at Lord's - although, as Williamson noted, had BJ Watling managed to complete a stumping of Rory Burns off Santner's bowling on the fourth afternoon, it might have been enough to swing the game New Zealand's way.
"It was important for Mitch to get out there and bowl and get comfortable and he created a few opportunities, certainly in that first innings, which were potentially game-changing, and we know he can bat really well as well. It would have been nice if things showed a bit more deterioration on the pitch, and from a straighter line, but it was a pretty good surface with a bit in it for everybody."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick