As early as April, Rory Burns – fresh from his dismissal in India – was reluctant to suggest that he might have to work his way back into the test team.
It was the reaction of a player who refused to accept his fate, a complaint compounded by the fact that all of his teammates except Joe Root had problems as well.
On Saturday, Burns went from scapegoat to savior, as if to confirm that others had wrongly doubted him – if not seamless, then brave, the last man to take his third hundred test and take two blows on the head. Above all, he had helped England avert a meltdown on their first summer outing.
Rory Burns helped England stave off a meltdown with a hundred at Lord’s on the fourth day
Without Burns’ 132, England would have come way out of the competition on day four
On stumps, New Zealand was 62 for two in their second inning, an overall lead of 165. Without Burns’ 132, chiseled out in seven minutes under eight hours, their advantage might have been decisive.
Root had announced his goal on the eve of the game: to win all seven home tests and arrive in Australia this winter with a brag. It felt ambitious when he said it, and downright delirious when England slipped to 140 for six on the fourth morning, still 238 behind.
The captain himself had dropped the first ball of the day for 42, caught by the massive Kyle Jamieson when Ross Taylor slipped for the first time. Root was soon followed by Ollie Pope for 22, then Dan Lawrence and debutant James Bracey for ducks – all right through to forensic scientist Tim Southee.
At that point, everything seemed to be in line with what had been a terrible week for English cricket. On Wednesday, her public commitment to combating various forms of discrimination was immediately undermined by the discovery of racist and sexist tweets from Ollie Robinson.
Two days later, the ECB was forced to reject allegations of institutional racism by former referees John Holder and Ismail Dawood.
Tim Southee was in great shape and took six wickets for 43 to bow England at Lord’s
A peach from a southee shipment had James Bracey’s stump cut at Lord’s Wheel
A collapse of the eyelash under these circumstances was a small fish. Nor did it help to raise the feeling of an institution under attack on and off the field of play. For a while the successor emerged; the sun shone only on New Zealand.
But the mood changed when Robinson joined Burns. By the second day he had shown character with the ball and now he did it with the bat, taking a restorative stand on the seventh wicket of 63 with some meaty cuts and lumps.
One of Roots other pre-match requests was for a lower order capable of runs, and Robinson comfortably filled an eighth seat that was once the home of a player as good as Moeen Ali.
By the time he handed a pull-to-long leg and handed Southee his fifth wicket, he had scored 42 points. If the ECB bans Robinson from the second test this week in Edgbaston, he’s at least left his mark on something other than social media.
Kyle Jamieson got the ball rolling by dismissing Joe Root’s first ball when England collapsed
Root made a quick exit when the enthusiastic Jamieson dismissed him with the first ball of the day
There was a bit of hesitation at first, but replay showed Ross Taylor (center) making a clean catch in the slip to dismiss the English captain
At the other end, Burns had barely started the engine, let alone found the gear stick. By lunch, he had added 13 to his 59 overnight. When Robinson fell in the 85th over, Burns had 82. It wasn’t easy sailing.
He had survived a chance at 77, a trip by BJ Watling on Mitchell Santner’s left turn. Then, on 88, Burns was knocked down in Southee’s second slip in front of Neil Wagner; Taylor reached for the rebound in vain.
And when Stuart Broad was ninth with a total of 223, Burns had 91. Now, with only Anderson as company, he switched from John Edrich to Garry Sobers, rushed through the nineties and then took three fours in an over from Jamieson.
Moments later, he swept Wagner towards Old Father Time – his first six in Test cricket. Lords came to life. When he fatally nibbled Southee, the final wicket had added 52.
Southee appeals for Ollie Pope lbw’s wicket – it wasn’t originally given by the umpire but was on the review
Pope had to leave after scoring 22 as the ball tracker showed he hit the middle and leg stump
Like the New Zealand opener Devon Conway on Thursday, Burns had arrived just moments after wearing his racket. Unlike Conway, he had a patchy sequence behind him: 78 runs in eight innings against Pakistan and India, plus a missed tour of Sri Lanka due to paternity leave, and that falls in Ahmedabad. An ash trip will seem more tangible afterwards.
Southee now had the two best analyzes of his country at Lord’s, his six for 43 and his own six for 50 in 2013. Had the third day not been washed out, his contribution might have been profitable.
And although he bowled so nicely, England’s cool line-up helped him. Zak Crawley had fallen into a loose drive by the second night, but Lawrence’s wrist fiddle on the third slip was worse – a man’s shot on 100, not zero. The left-handed Bracey then managed to miss a little more than a straight ball.
England is without Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ali for various reasons. But if this was a chance for their rallying young hopefuls to prove a point, they failed en masse. It was particularly sobering for Lawrence, who had finished the India tour with ratings of 46 and 50.
Dan Lawrence played a terrible shot to find Colin de Grandhomme slipping Southee
Southee celebrates after removing Lawrence without counting – his third wicket of innings
James Bracey was then spectacularly thrown for a duck when Southee struck again
New Zealand celebrates Bracey’s wicket, which England left behind for six on 140
Still, by overseeing the addition of 135 for the final four wickets, Burns had moved the dial of this test away from England losing and towards a tie.
That scenario seemed more likely as New Zealand’s opening game took its time as the shadows lengthened and were limited to defense by the hapless excellence of Anderson and Broad.
But it was Robinson who made the breakthrough. First he bowled Conway over an inside edge for 23. Then, after Kane Williamson was spared an LBW decision by a weak edge, Robinson found the technique more to his liking.
Richard Kettleborough’s decision seemed fair enough, and Root’s last-minute decision to ask for a review seemed desperate. But ball tracking had the leg-before-appeal that hit the top of the leg, and Williamson’s curiously mediocre test record in England – averaging 26 out of 10 innings – continued.
Robinson walked away with numbers 9-4-8-2 and looked like a cricketer of substance. Nothing will erase the memory of those tweets, but runs and wickets could at least have eased the pain.
Opener Rory Burns continued his progress when the wickets crashed on the other end
Lord’s looked a picture under a blue sky on the fourth day after washing the third