MOUNT MAUNGANUI: Dramatic lightning flashes around Bay Oval echoed lightning innings by Ben Duckett and Harry Brook which allowed England to declare at 325-9 with time to spare Thursday on the first day of the first, day-night cricket test against New Zealand.
While thick black thunderclouds sometimes glowered over the ground, no rain fell England while was driven along at more than 5.5 runs per over by the propulsive innings of Duckett, who made 84 from 68 balls in the first session, and Brook, who posted 89 from 80 balls.
The declaration after only 58.2 overs and with 85 minutes left in the day gave the bowlers time to fortify England's position and they did so with the wickets of Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (6) and Henry Nicholls (4). Devon Conway (17) held on to stumps when New Zealand was 37-3. James Anderson took 2-10 from seven overs in an outstanding spell in the late evening which drove home England's advantage.
If England's new approach under captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum still needed validation after nine wins in their last 10 tests it received it in the manner England approached the first day after losing the toss and being sent in.
Far from being daunted on a pitch which showed signs of green and against a pink ball which swung at first, Duckett and England went on the offensive and New Zealand, after a fleeting early success, had to battle to stay in the match. Duckett had his fifth half-century in eight tests from 36 balls and before the first hour was up. He put on 99 runs for England's second wicket in only 90 minutes with Ollie Pope and was out 15 minutes before the first break at which England already was 134-2.
"Personally I pride myself on hundreds," Duckett said. "I was very disappointed when I got out, I had a chance to get a big score but I would have taken 80 at the start of the day. "I didn't go out there with any intention to score quickly and it just happened."
New Zealand had two fast bowlers on debut — Blair Tickner and Scott Kuggeleijn — and both struggled under Duckett's early assault which included 14 fours. Tickner, who had given up four boundaries in one over to the belligerent batting of the opener, had the small consolation of capturing his wicket with a short ball which Duckett mistimed to cover.
New Zealand's hopes rose a little when they dismissed Pope and Joe Root in the space of four balls and suddenly England was 154-4. Pope fell to a conventional catch at second slip but Root was perhaps a little too aggressive and caught at mid-wicket to give Kuggeleijn his first test wicket.
Then Brook took over and sped towards what might have been his fourth century in five tests. He needed only 43 balls for a half-century which included 10 fours and left the New Zealand attack dazed and bereft of ideas. While Duckett played a broad variety of shots, most of Brook's runs came on the offside in a wide arc between third man and mid-off. He only began to be limited in his scoring when Neil Wagner, who had shared the new ball with Tim Southee for the first time, abandoned orthodoxy and tested him with a barrage of short-pitched balls, one of which took him on the helmet.
His flow was broken and soon after he dragged a short ball from Wagner onto his stumps after an innings of only 81 balls which included 15 fours and a six. The England tail went all out in pursuit of quick runs and after Brook, three wickets were lost for 27 runs amid an array of reckless shots. Wagner was the best of the New Zealand bowlers with 4-82 from 16.2 overs.
England's bowlers charged in as the floodlights kept at bay the darkness of gathering clouds and the New Zealand top order foundered. Ollie Robinson struck with only his third ball to remove Latham, who edged the ball from his thigh pad to Pope at short leg, but Zac Crawley at second slip dropped Conway off James Anderson. Anderson then had Williamson lbw with an appeal first rejected by umpire Aleem Dar but upheld on review. Crawley caught Henry Nicholls off Anderson to leave New Zealand only hanging on at the end.
Brief Scores on Day 1
England: 325/9d(Ducket 84 & Brook 89; Wagner 4/82 & Southee 2/71)
New Zealand: 37/3 (Conway 17 not out; Anderson 2/10)