Root and Stokes show cricket bosses how to handle a crisis
England recover from 30-4 as Lord's gets a much-needed glimpse of the future... shame about the jumpers
England's cricketers showed their bosses at Lord's a thing or two about crisis management as they dug themselves out of a big hole on the first day of the first Test against New Zealand to announce the dawning of a new era and finish the day in a commanding position.
After a terrible build-up to the summer, overshadowed by the interminable Kevin Pietersen saga, the England side needed to send a message to the watching public. But things could hardly have got off to a worse start for Alastair Cook's men as they lost the toss and then slumped to 30-4 after an hour.
Debutant opener Adam Lyth fell for seven, Gary Ballance and Ian Bell were both out for just one and Cook was caught behind trying to hook for 16 as the New Zealand seamers ran riot in favourable conditions.
In times gone by it would have been Pietersen who led the fightback, but England's new generation, led by Joe Root and Ben Stokes, proved that cricket fans do not need to spend the summer looking backwards as they launched a scintillating counter attack to drag their side out of the mire. A vibrant partnership of 161, scored at a remarkable five runs an over, lifted the gloom over Lord's and almost silenced the KP cheerleaders.
Stokes made a memorable 92 at almost a run a ball before misjudging a delivery from spinner Mark Craig which tickled his off stump. Root, more curcumspect and elegant than his partner, ploughed on, but he too fell short of a well-deserved century, edging behind on 98.
But the new generation were not yet done and Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali picked up the mantle to guide England to 354 before Buttler was out LBW to the final ball of the day. It was some recovery from a position where England could have crumbled
"It was probably fitting that, as Alastair Cook walked off the Lord's pitch, Joe Root should walk on," says George Dobell of Cricinfo. "Root replaced him at the crease and surely, before long, will replace him as captain.
"Root is the natural leader of the new-look side," he explains. "He is untainted by the past, untainted by the Kevin Pietersen affair, untainted by the elitism that poured from the ECB... He gives England a fresh chance to engage with a public who may well have made up their minds about more familiar faces."
Root's partner, Stokes, also deserves credit, says Andrew Miller in The Times. "It is a period of some turmoil for the national side, on and off the field, but performers such as Stokes, an unfettered talent given the licence and the backing to have a go and hang the consequences, are precisely the sort of players on whom to build a better future... Stokes is hungry for the chance to be a star."
However, no matter how well they perform, the England camp surely realise that their bosses will always do something to undermine them, and so it proved yesterday as fans cringed at the sight of the team's new semi-cableknit sweaters. The acrylic tops with knitted pattern on the bottom half and red piping prompted plenty of debate on social media, where they were dubbed "village idiot" jumpers.
Sky commentator David Lloyd described them as "rather natty", but he was in a minority.
England's cricket jumper perfectly sums the ECB's position at the moment... Uncomfortable, dated, laughable & poorly thought out #knitwits
— Patrick Sampson (@SmoBowler) May 22, 2015