A huge slice of luck for birthday boy Ben Stokes and a classy innings from Joe Root moved England into a winning position against New Zealand on a gripping third day Saturday of the first Test at Lord’s.
Set 277 to win by New Zealand, England appeared to be heading towards another tame defeat when the new skipper fell to an ugly hack which left the scoreboard reading 76-5.
But his dismissal for just 1 was scrubbed from the records when replays showed Colin de Grandhomme overstepping, a no ball that changed the shape of the game as England rallied to reach 216-5 at stumps.
Stokes celebrated turning 31 by clubbing his way to 54, including three sixes and five fours, riding his good fortune to drag England back into contention before predecessor Root took charge.
Root occupied the crease with calm authority as he finished with an unbeaten 77. With him was wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who'd scored just nine runs of their unbeaten 57-run partnership.
The hosts are clear favourites to get the remaining 61 they need as long as Root stays in.
Stuart Broad earlier led the bowling attack in a vital fightback which saw the Kiwis lose their last six wickets for 34, including a maiden wicket for debutant legspinner Matt Parkinson.
At one stage the tourists coughed up three wickets in as many balls, with two for Broad and the forlorn De Grandhomme run out for a golden duck.
New Zealand held all the cards at the start of play, 227 ahead with six wickets in the bank and hundreds in sight for Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell. Mitchell became the 15th New Zealander to make a Test century at Lord’s and finished on 108, while Blundell was trapped on 96.
But New Zealand failed to capitalise on the pair’s 195-run stand and their 285 all out offered the hosts a fighting chance.
“If New Zealand get 340-350, it’s a different game” Broad said. "I really enjoyed the feeling of getting the crowd going and lifting the energy in the stadium. The crowd responded brilliantly and so did the players.
"It’s been a really enjoyable Test match, really exciting, and hard to know what is going to happen from hour to hour. It's great knowing either team could win it.”
England began losing hope when the top three wilted again.
Alex Lees mustered 20 before offering no shot to Kyle Jamieson and lost his off stump. Zak Crawley’s weakness in the channel saw him caught at gully for 9, and Ollie Pope was comprehensively cleaned up by Trent Boult on 10.
Jonny Bairstow attempted to ease the pressure by going on the front foot, lacing Boult into the offside as he picked up 14 in a single over. But the adrenaline rush got the best of him when he dragged on with a reckless drive, with the end of Jamieson’s superb spell just moments away.
That brought the past and present captains together with more than 200 still to get, and the familiar feeling of a collapse in the air.
While Root exuded calm, Stokes was a bundle of nervous energy. He had one run from 19 balls when he sauntered down the pitch at De Grandhomme and played on with a crooked bat. Had the medium-pacer’s foot been a couple of inches further back, it would have been a hopeless way for Stokes' involvement in the game to end.
Broad said the no ball for Stokes lifted the England changing room.
“I can’t play that down, there was big energy,” Broad said. "It was (batting coach) Marcus Trescothick who had an earpiece in and when we were all saying, ‘Oh no,’ he just went 'It’s a no ball! It’s a no ball!’
"We all looked up at the screen and saw Stokesy turning back around and of course that gives the whole changing room a lift. We've been on the flip side of that a few times and it does hurt. It also freed Stokesy up a bit to play how he wanted to play.”
Stokes risked wasting his good fortune but he is a player who is never out of the contest and offered a reminder by slog-sweeping Ajaz Patel for the first six of the match.
Root's measured approach offered a calming counterpoint to Stokes' high-risk strategy, but more of his gambles started to pay off as he muscled a handful of boundaries.
Watching Stokes work his way towards England’s first half-century of the match was an edge-of-the-seat affair, with a constant sense of danger and moments of enjoyable brute force. Patel came off worst of all, swiped twice more into the stands and conceding four byes when he did beat the bat.
Stokes became Jamieson’s fourth victim, gloving an attempted uppercut to the keeper to leave Root in charge of the chase with another 118 still required.
Root's ability to work singles nudged the target down into double figures and eased him to a polished 50, but he was also able to cash in boundaries — whipping Tim Southee through square leg then helping the follow-up to third man.
Every run was crucial and England got some assistance, with a rare inside edge from Root skipping away for four and a misfield from Kane Williamson adding three as Foakes offered solid support.
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