At Lord's, May 21-25. England won by 124 runs. Toss: New Zealand. Test debuts:A. Lyth, M. A. Wood; M. J. Henry.A classic match lasting the full five days featured several comebacks, more runs thanany Test at Lord's, and its fastest hundred. The highlights were a Bothamesque performance from Stokes, and stirring batting from Cook and Root. New Zealand played their part in their 400th Test, and 100th against England. More than that, a large crowd - culminating in a walk-up final-day attendance of 21,052 - were engaged throughout. After a period of exasperation, including a disastrous World Cup and the clumsy handling of the Kevin Pietersen affair, the queue for tickets extending round the ground on a Bank Holiday Monday suggested cricket was finally reconnecting with the British public.A lot had happened since the defeat in Barbados. In the intervening 17 days - the shortest time between home and away Tests for England - the ECB had acquired a new director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, who sacked coach Peter Moores, then informed Pietersen, hours after his maiden triple-century, that he would not be considered forselection. And when England dipped to 30 for four after being put in, you could sense KP's cheerleaders flexing their Twitter-fingers: a confident New Zealand, containing eight of their World Cup final XI, were on the march.
But the counter-attack came straight out of the McCullum manual: Root and Stokes scorched to a fifty stand in 46 balls, and in all put on 161 at five an over. Restored to No. 6 by Paul Farbrace, despite ducks in his three previous Test innings in England, Stokes took on the seamers in memorable style,clattering two fours and a six in four balls from the debutant Matt Henry.England, meanwhile, had two newcomers: Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth accepted the dubious honour of shirt No. 666, while the Durham fast bowler Mark Wood showed signs of pacy promise and a welcome sense of humour, celebrating his first Test catch by riding an imaginary horse.Ten overs before tea, Stokes allowed Craig's arm-ball to crash into his stumps, and departed for 92 from 94 deliveries. Buttler kept the momentum going, and Ali chimed in after Root, on 98, under-edged Henry and was caught behind by Latham; he was deputisingably for Watling, who was resting an injured knee (he had also been forced to hand over the gloves at Lord's in 2013). The last ball of the day accounted for Buttler, but England's 354 for seven was quite a recovery, and their eventual 389 the highest in a Test innings in which a team had been 30 for four or worse. Guptill and Latham responded with a stand of 148, although they might have been parted much earlier: when 24, Guptill was well held at slip by Cook, but Wood's delight at his first Test wicket was cut short when replays showed a marginal no-ball. Wood had to wait nearly a day before he could celebrate properly. Guptill caught the eye, swinging Jimmy Anderson for a one-bounce four. Both openers eventually departed in three balls on the second afternoon, but the third-wicket pair lifted New Zealand close to parity witha stand of 189. Williamson often played the ball impossibly late, and purred to his tenth Test century, the innings after hitting 242 not out against Sri Lanka at Wellington.
Taylor made a subdued 62, before Buttler took an acrobatic leg-side catch, but that only brought in McCullum. He took his side level - only three wickets down - with a controlled cut over the slips, then heaved Stokes into the Grand Stand. But in the next over he gave Wood his belated maiden wicket, spiralling a catch to deep third man.Williamson rolled on, passing Taylor's New Zealand record for Test runs between dismissals (362) before bat-padding Ali to short leg; Craig survived a confident lbw appeal first ball, but perished to the second, a mite straighter. Watling, seemingly unworried by his injury, took New Zealand past 500, a total swelled by 67 extras, the most in any Test innings in England. Only nine higher totals had led to defeat.Trailing by 134, England made another shaky start: Lyth, poking tentatively, was well caught low at third slip by Southee, who then trimmed Ballance's off bail with his best delivery of an otherwise indifferent match. Bell fell to him in the first over of the fourth day, snicking a widish one with England still 60 behind, but Cook and Root settled in to wipe off the deficit. Cook left the ball well, and tucked in to his trademark pulls and cuts with more certainty than for a year or two. And, although Root again fell within sight of a century, Cook made no mistake, reaching his 27th in Tests by straight-driving Henry for three. He survived a marginal lbw shout in the next over, from Craig, and buckle ddown again.England were now more than 100 in front, and Stokes set about doubling that, with Cook an admiring spectator.
An airy drive off Henry flew wide of third slip, but the next two balls produced more authentic fours. After tea Southee also went for three fours in an over; then, trying to bounce Stokes, he saw eight successive deliveries swatted for 30.Henry received similar treatment: a superb straight-drive took Stokes to 99, and two balls later a single gave him the fastest hundred in a Lord's Test, from 85 deliveries. India's Mohammad Azharuddin got there in 87 in 1990; the only known faster hundred for England was Gilbert Jessop's famous onslaught in the 1902 Ashes Test at The Oval.Craig snared Stokes shortly afterwards, but Cook continued. By the close England's lead was 295 and, on the final morning, as the queues snaked down the road to St John's Wood station, one worry was that they might bat on too long. Instead, Cook's nine-hourvigil (and his highest Test score since December 2012 in Kolkata) ended when he tickled Boult to the keeper - a deflection missed by umpire Ravi but confirmed by Hot Spot - and the last three wickets used up less than five overs. The incisive Boult finished with a five-for, and New Zealand needed 345 in 77 - implausible but, given the breakneck rate of the match, not impossible.
After seven balls, though, it had become just about impossible, as both openers departed for ducks. Guptill edged the second delivery into the slips, where Ballance clasped a good low catch to give Anderson his 399th Test wicket. The first ball of the second over, from Broad, trapped Latham in front, and it would have been six for three had Root held Taylor at third slip. Taylor did not make the most of the let-off, pinned so obviously in front that Broad hardly bothered checking the umpire's decision. Watling entered at No. 5, instead of McCullum, who had stretched a hamstring in the field but also wanted to give the more adhesive man a chance to settle in. Watling and Williamson survived past lunch but, just as they seemed to have weathered the storm,England's man of the moment struck. Stokes unsettled Williamson with one that reared at him, then another that whistled past the edge.
Williamson was not quite over the next ball,which flew low to Root in the gully. The crowd went wild - and wilder still when Stokes immediately cramped McCullum with an inducker which crashed into the stumps via bat handle and thigh pad.Stokes had 3-3-0-2, but New Zealand weren't finished. Showing little sign of the back strain that had forced him off the field (and would keep him out of the Second Test), Corey Anderson dented those figures by carting two fours and a six in Stokes's next over, and skeetered to a 44-ball half-century. Nine overs after tea it was 168 for five, a draw the likeliest result with 27 overs left. But Watling feathered Wood to Buttler after 192 minutes of defiance, and three overs later Root's flattish off-break trapped Anderson. Stokes returned to clean up Craig, and Southee drove the next ball loosely back at Ali.
A review against Boult, the No. 11, proved unsuccessful; England grew anxious as the weather became gloomier, and the final pair survived into the last hour.With ten overs left, Broad went round the wicket and dug the ball in. Boult pushed at wo past short leg, then stepped back to upper-cut him. Earlier, with runs immaterial, Cook had been castigated by the commentators for having a third man. But now it seemed inspired: Ali moved smartly to his left and caught the ball over his shoulder as he tumbled in front of the pavilion. To the delight of the crowd, England had won a breathless game,which produced 1,610 runs, seven more than any other Lord's Test (England-India in 1990 was the previous highest). It was also the most for a time-limited Test in which all 40 wickets fell, beating 1,553 between England and Pakistan at Headingley in 2006.All that was missing was Old Father Time, who had been blown off his perch beside the Tavern Stand a few weeks previously, and was still under repair. English cricket, it seemed, was also on the mend.
Man of the Match:B. A. Stokes
Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes