Devon Conway's unbeaten tonne in his debut sets the tone for New Zealand


As the return of Test cricket to Lord's was marked by a day of hard yakka on the field for England, an undefeated century from New Zealand's rookie opener, Devon Conway, set the tone for the visitors. Another player making his Test debut, Ollie Robinson, took two of the three wickets that fell before Conway and Henry Nicholls put New Zealand in command with a century partnership for the fourth wicket.

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 fief, England would have aspired for a firmer foothold in the match 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.

Conway, a 29-year-old South African-born batter who spent three years qualifying for New Zealand on a residence, put in a near-flawless performance as Tom Latham's new opening partner, as he and Nicholls stifled England's four-man seam attack. Not for nothing is New Zealand in the World Test Championship final, having perfected the plan of capitalizing on favorable batting conditions and then applying pressure to the opposition.

Conway was in fine form throughout, adapting his pace to the circumstance - he scored just four runs in a 50-minute spell after lunch, during which Kane Williamson was removed, before driving Stuart Broad for the fifty-run boundary.

And he showed no nervousness as he sped past the 90s in ten balls, a flamingo-flicked boundary through backward square leg off Robinson propelling him to three figures and a spot on the Lord's honors board. In the process, he became the 12th player in New Zealand history to hit a century on his Test debut, and the sixth to do it at Lord's; no overseas opener had ever done it in England before.

Conway's day started with a three-over wait before he encountered a ball. However, he has always recognised the need of patience. Conway arrived in England for his debut Test tour with one of the best first-class records in the world, having racked up runs on New Zealand's domestic circuit during his qualification spell. He has more over 2000 runs at 66.25 for Wellington, and his Test debut has become a matter of when rather than if.

Despite being temporarily troubled by a short-ball onslaught during Mark Wood's first session, in which the England fast was timed at 96mph/154kph, he scarcely gave a chance over a lengthy day in the middle. A flip off Robinson cleared the jump of wicketkeeper James Bracey after he reached 77, and a top-edged swipe at Wood almost passed the jump of wicketkeeper James Bracey after he reached his century.

Conway was heartily welcomed by the New Zealand balcony as well as the 7,500 spectators permitted inside Lord's, and Nicholls was the one out in the middle to congratulate him as he achieved his landmark. New Zealand's No. 5 was content to play the foil, batting quietly through the evening session to end within striking distance of a fifty; England found his pads on a few times, but when they did review, Wood's ball was adjudged to have pitched outside leg stump.

The morning began with Lord's settling into a Test match pattern for the first time since the 2019 Ashes - though on a lower scale due to Covid-19 limitations, which limited audience capacity to 25%. The mood was buoyant and eager after England's 2020 international summer was played entirely behind closed doors, a far cry from the fevered emotions that followed New Zealand's previous trip to Lord's for the World Cup final two years ago.

Williamson won the toss and elected to bat, as he did on that day - the usual Test method and never a simpler decision than on a bright, sunny morning at St John's Wood. New Zealand were fielding their fourth opening combination since England's trip in late 2019, but Conway and Latham quickly clicked, putting up a 58-run stand in the same amount of time as England's venerable new-ball duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad hunted - mainly in vain - for seam and swing.

Anderson, unusually, chose to start the game from the Nursery End, with Broad coming in from in front of the Pavilion. Joe Root brought in Robinson in the 10th over and switched Broad's end, putting a stop to the experiment. Robinson began with a front-foot no-ball but quickly settled in, nibbling the ball both ways in the channel outside off - and in his fourth over, a sliver of seam movement sent the ball into Latham's knees through an inside edge.

New Zealand reached lunch on 85 for 1 as Lord's began to resemble one of the shirtfronts that were popular in the United States throughout the 2000s. Their balance was temporarily disrupted when Williamson misjudged his first ball after the interval, sending an Anderson delivery down into his off stump, and Robinson then maintained his promising debut appearance in Test whites by trapping Ross Taylor lbw to finish a shaky session. New Zealand, on the other hand, was only getting begun, and Conway is far from completed.

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