Thursday , July 7 2022

Matt Potts heats up England but familiar batting woes cool expectations | England v New Zealand 2022

At the end of a wild day featuring success with the ball followed by failure with the bat for England, the new-look team’s first response was: job well done.

“We’ve come to entertain, that’s our thing first and foremost, and it’s been an entertaining day of cricket,” said Matt Potts, whose side were 116 for seven at stumps, still 16 runs behind New Zealand.

“It’s one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, I know the team’s enjoyed it, we’re still in a contest to win a game of Test cricket and we’re going to attack the day tomorrow.”

If the performance across the afternoon was a reminder that this team are still dogged by the frailties that have led them to limp through their last 17 Tests with just a single victory, the response to it neatly encapsulates the approach their new coach and captain, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, are encouraging.

But it is no surprise that Potts enjoyed himself. He may have played his part in England’s collapse from 92 for two to 100 for seven, squirming awkwardly at a Trent Boult short ball and diverting it off his glove to slip – forgivable perhaps given that it was only his second delivery as a Test batter – but bowling figures of four wickets for 13 runs off 9.2 overs were beyond the wildest imaginings of a 23-year-old making his international debut.

It took five balls for him to make an impact, Kane Williamson edging behind where Ben Foakes took a fine low catch. “I mean, absolute elation,” Potts said of that moment. “A Test debut at the home of cricket, in the pinnacle format of cricket, and then to get the New Zealand captain out fifth ball … absolutely over the moon. I can’t put into words how that feels.”

Matt Potts diverts a Trent Boult ball off his glove to slip to lose his wicket.
Matt Potts diverts a Trent Boult ball off his glove to slip to lose his wicket after two balls. Photograph: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

The day could potentially have gone even better for Potts had he not felt a slight twinge in his calf two balls into his 10th over, when one wicket away from a five-fer and with New Zealand nine down. Though he was ready to play on, Stokes immediately ordered him from the field.

“The calves were barking at me a little bit,” he said. “An eight-over spell, a bit of soft ground, me probably throwing 110, 115% into it without realising, and a bit of nerves probably takes its toll on the body. It was a case of making sure you don’t pull anything or do anything stupid. Stokesy took the decision off me and said: ‘Get off the pitch, go rest, and we’ll get the last wicket.’

“It’s always thinking about the greater good over personal achievement. I could have gone for five. I told Stokesy I could keep on bowling.

“I am the first person to keep battling through things at Durham. But we have multiple games coming up, and the second innings is where the game is going to be [won]. I’m trying to get myself right and win a Test rather than us be a bowler down because I’ve pulled a calf trying to take five.”

On a topsy-turvy day for England no player could possibly match Matt Parkinson for sheer discombobulation, the Lancashire spinner starting it in Manchester and ending it in the Lord’s dressing room with his pads on, making his debut as a concussion substitute. Jack Leach started the game but in a desperate if successful attempt to claw a Devon Conway drive away from the rope landed on his head and was forced to withdraw.

“It was a freak thing that can happen in cricket,” Potts said. “The first thing he said when I saw him was: ‘I’m fine – saved the four, though!’ That is a testament to his character. He’s a tough lad.”

Having won the toss, chosen to bat and been dismissed for 132, New Zealand hauled themselves back into the contest as the shadows lengthened. Not that they ever considered themselves out of it, even having gone in for lunch at 39 for six.

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Kyle Jamieson, who made six then took the first two England wickets, said: “Obviously it wasn’t unfolding how we ideally wanted it to, but we spoke about 130 and we thought if we could get there and get a few wickets we were right in the game.

“If we put the ball in good areas we always thought we were in with a chance, and lucky enough we were able to do that.”

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