England vs New Zealand first Test: Gripping victory could win back a disengaged public

The fates aligned for England to produce a fittingly thrilling conclusion

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The Independent Online

These have not been glorious months for English cricket, from the World Cup debacle to the  clumsily handled sacking of Peter Moores, there has been very little for fans to be proud either on or off the field.

After a gripping first Test of the summer at Lord’s that is categorically no longer the case.

This was a day when the fates aligned for England, the cricketing gods smiled down on them and conspired to produce a fittingly thrilling conclusion to a fascinating five day’s play.

A serendipitous combination of Bank Holiday Monday and generous ticket pricing had ensured the drama would be played out to a packed house at Lord’s and as their vociferous support urged England on to a fantastic victory, it was hard to shake the feeling that this was the game that the public started to fall back in love with English cricket.

It seems as if the backfiring ECB PR machine has been spewing out missives on new eras for this England team ever since they humiliating disintegrated in the last Ashes series – each one slightly less believable than the last – but now after turning round this enthralling Test, there is a genuine feeling that this might actually be the start of something better.

It was appropriate that Ben Stokes, whose struggles for so long seemed to suggest there was something rotten in the state of English cricket, took the plaudits here, his lusty hitting and menace with the ball embodied a more aggressive style of cricket shown by England in this game.

As well as Stokes played though, this was no one-man show, instead it was a match when Alastair Cook’s side showed why there is a lot to be hopeful for in the future of this team.

Despite difficult circumstances, Joe Root has had a stellar cricketing year and here, along with Stokes, he gave a glimpse of exciting years ahead for English fans.

It was this young pair who rescued England from the precipitous position of 30/4 on the first morning and it was their wickets at crucial moments that ensured there would be no final day escape for New Zealand, but just as importantly it was also their carefree and cheeky attitude to the sport which has helped reinvigorate national passions.

This was a match to savour for Cook as well. England’s skipper has been under fire in recent months – not completely unfairly – yet here he answered his critics with the bat, his gritty 162 in the second innings lining the road to England’s victory.

However it has been in the field where Cook’s captaincy has taken the most flak, but on the final day he proved – some may claim more through luck than judgement – to be a cricketing King Midas. Everything he touched turned to wickets, with the game fittingly wrapped up by a catch taken at the much derided third man he had posted.

It is of course foolish to claim that after this game all of England’s ills have been cured, one win, however it is achieved does not suddenly make them the best side in the world and there will undoubtedly be more setbacks along the way.

There is a sense though that these five days have provided another, more important, sort of triumph for this team, the winning back of an increasingly disengaged public and that ultimately is more important than any Test match win. 

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