England 389 and 429-6
New Zealand 523 (after day four)
Two very contrasting centuries by captain Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes brought England back into the reckoning against New Zealand yesterday. With one day remaining of an intriguing first Test at Lord's, the home side lead the tourists by a healthy 295 runs and still have four wickets left to build on their score. Win, lose or draw, it has been a wonderful advert for Test match #Cricket so far.
In marked contrast to the doom and gloom that had descended on England after day three, day four beckoned in a far brighter outlook for the nation's cricketers. Despite the rapid dismissal of Ian Bell, the remainder of the day's play suggested that there is still some fire left in the belly of Cook's eleven.
Bell dismissed early
Still trailing New Zealand by 60 runs overnight, England lost Bell (29) from the third ball of Tim Southee's opening over on day four to add to their travails. Cook and Joe Root dug in to initially keep the Kiwi bowlers at bay, but then to play more expansively as their threat eased after the first hour. Gradually the pressure lifted, as the pair added 158 for the fourth wicket and the supporters sensed that a draw might be achievable after all.
Stokes' rapid century
Root's dismissal for a priceless 84 runs brought the confident Stokes to join Cook at the crease and the excitement cranked up a level. His knock in the first innings had given England momentum, but by bludgeoning a century off just 85 deliveries he brought an improbable England victory back into the reckoning. It was the quickest three figure score ever seen at the home of cricket in a Test match and put England in the ascendancy at last.
Cook sensibly just let Stokes get on with it, not attempting to match his firepower, providing the bedrock at the other end. Southee seemed to get carried away with short-pitched bowling, allowing Stokes to dismiss him into the crowd for three mighty sixes in quick succession. Stokes was eventually dismissed on 101, edging a catch to slip off Mark Craig. The stand had been 132, yet Cook contributed just 24 runs, such was Stokes' dominance. How they could have done with him in the World Cup, but that is old news now.
The skipper continued to add to his tally, notching his 27th Test century and beyond. Jos Buttler (14) provided a brief cameo, but Moeen Ali remained unbeaten at the end of day four on 19. Cook was also still there on 153, seemingly back doing what he does best, scoring lots of runs.The draw is probably the most likely outcome as the match moves into the final day. England would like to add runs quickly to set the 'Black Caps' a total to chase, but with just two Tests in the series they may decide to err on the side of caution. Of course they may find themselves bowled out quickly, which would act (if nothing else) to move the game along. But for Stokes and Cook, England may well have already been licking their wounds after a four day defeat.