22 players stood proudly in front of the retrospective flags at the iconic Lords ground awaiting an exciting new preposition. England and Papua New Guinea took the field at the Home of Cricket to begin the inaugural Eastern Hemisphere Test League match. The dry and hard surface that was presented to us meant that second spinner Liam Dawson was omitted from the playing XI for left arm seamer Sam Curran. Sussex’s opening batsman Luke Wells was invited to open alongside Rory Burns whilst a makeshift top order took place with captain Joe Root at NO.3 and wicket keeper Jonny Bairstow at an unfamiliar NO.4 role. However, the wait would continue to see the English batting order as the opponents won the toss and elected to bat.
In his final game before retirement, James Anderson set the tone perfectly dismissing captain Carlos Ahuja inside the opening over for a 6 ball duck. The visitors, slightly jaded from the 22 hour flight, negotiated the first 10 overs without the loss of a further wicket and paused for rain. Stuart Broad, though had other ideas and accounted for the second PNG wicket after the rain delay bowling Shekar Biswas for 13. Lakshman Som and Kaiden Donahue combined together through until lunch in a shortened session. The resumption of the session saw the outcome of the game dramatically change in the space of an hour. Left armer Sam Curran struck with Donahue departing LBW for a patient 12 before bowling Marnus Dave two balls later. At the other end, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes entered the attack immediately trapping Timothy Upadhyay (1) LBW and then removing Akbar Vig for a three ball duck curtailing the extraordinary collapse of 4 wickets for just the 1 run in 9 balls! Som had watched wickets fall at the non strikers end and that probably had affected his shot selection as he tamely edged Surrey’s Curran through to Jonny Bairstow for a spirited 20. Som and Donahue’s 24 run partnership through rain and beverage breaks was the highest in the innings. Jos Buttler took two smart catches at second slip off Curran and then Woakes to leave PNG hovering at 67-9 (Sandhu 5 Norris 3) before fittingly Curran sealed his five wicket haul and wrapped up the innings with the wicket of Jayant Rege (7) – 69 all out!
After beginning as the 4th choice seamer, Sam Curran had increased his stocks with a devastating spell of out and in swinging deliveries unsettling the PNG batsman in their rain affected innings. Woakes bowled with good accuracy and finished with outstanding figures of (5-2-7-3). We dominated in early home favouring conditions but there was an even contest between bat and ball until the end of the Som – Donahue partnership. Papua New Guinea gifted a too many easy wickets to us especially in the nine ball period where Curran and Woakes rained havoc with disciplined lines and length which got our rewards. We were happy to have rolled PNG over but would have liked more of a challenge however the game was certainly not over.
A tricky 40 minute session before lunch was ideal for the confidence of the incumbent Rory Burns and debutant Luke Wells but the pressure told. Papua New Guinea had bravely opted not to bowl left arm seamer Naryaan Palla and went with Caspar Sandhu and Rege which worked with instant success as Burns played all around a straight Rege delivering dismantling his stumps for 3. The removal of our opening combo saw captain Joe Root stride to the crease and he started freely and flowingly with his trademark cover drives on show. Disappointingly, Root could not build on his early platform as he edged behind off the relentless Sandhu for 15 in the final over of the second session.
Teas and scones had been gobbled and now it was back to the task in hand at 30-2 to build a healthy first innings lead. Wells and Jonny Bairstow batted with patience and determinedness to see off the threat of seamers Sandhu and Rege. With evident seam movement and bounce on show it was definitely a tricky pitch to get a start on. On debut, Wells (51) ploughed through to register his maiden Test match fifty with a gorgeous leg glance which pierced the boundary rope but celebrations were short lived as a leading edge found bowler Rege’s diving hands. The introduction of slow seamer Atticus Norris had dire effects…
Norris first removed Bairstow (42) with a deceiving slower ball cheaply chipped into the hands of mid off before Ali dragged on for a 2 ball duck. In the midst of that, Ben Stokes (2) was guilty of casually grounding his bat and Ahuja exploited that with a direct throw. From 117-2 we had plummeted to 126-6 in an abysmal middle order batting display. More measured and sensible batting followed by Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes however the latter was dismissed in the final over of the day by Naryaan Palla to leave us at stumps on 158-7 (41). An epic 17 scalps had taken place over the course of the first day however EHTL pitch inspectors and head groundsmen were satisfied with the pitch citing batsman errors on both sides and consistent nagging bowling lengths culminating in the downfall of wickets.
On the second morning, Curran joined Buttler who looked in impressive form. A counter attacking lofted offside innings was the key to the limited overs batsman’s success as Papua New Guinea eased the pressure with some poor field setting and numerous dropped catches. Left arm pacer Naryaan Palla (3-32) was thumped into the members pavilion twice in a row from Buttler to bring up his fifty but much like Wells he fell the following ball attempting to repeat his shot making. Palla was on a hattrick as first innings bowling demon Curran (13) edged behind off the fellow left armer and despite Jimmy Anderson smashing the hattrick ball for a huge maximum, he fell for 8 bowled by Norris to curtail our innings.
The 205 had come from just the 50 overs and had subsided dramatically from 117-2. Only double JB and Wells converted their starts and demonstrated the fair even wicket Lords had produced for ball and bat. Poor shot choices and lack of application didn’t aid our cause with Bairstow’s clumsy dismissal the cornerstone of our batting effort. In our opening EHTL match, we had already collapsed in true English fashion but were on the whole content with our 136 run lead.
Sandwiches had been eaten and the debrief was completed when we returned to the field and had an instant impact with the promoted inform Sam Curran striking in the 5th over, Ahuja (3) the victim of a vicious in swinging delivery which found the edge to Bairstow. Wicketkeeper Kaiden Donahue was joined by the new man Biswas and began to look comfortable against the swinging ball from Curran and Anderson abolishing the near memory of the first innings. The pair combined for a healthy 55 runs but were fortunate to be on the receiving end of overthrows and the edges dropping short. In a 10 over spell, Curran ended on a high note breaking the partnership, rearranging Biswas’s stumps for a respectable 26. Top scorer of the first innings, Som entered the field and safely negotiated Papua New Guinea over the dreaded 69 total to warm cheers from all sections of the Lords crowd. Som batted with the most fluency of any PNG batsman and took advantage of Stokes and Woakes’ bad balls to relive the pressure. Donahue’s patient innings payed off securing a well fought 50 but as the partnership had reached 51, on the stroke of tea, Stuart Broad bounced back from his poor first spell with a ripping over of swing and seam bowling which accounted for Som’s (25) departure via Root at first slip. Having been 69 all out in the first dig, Papua New Guinea had reached a much improved 119-3 at tea but still 17 runs away from possibly making us bat again…
In the final session, Broad had begun in very similar fashion seaming and swinging the ball round the PNG batsman who had little reply. Marnus Dave avoided a pair but just made 10 before Buttler took a smart catch at 3rd slip to remove the all rounder. Broad then struck again soon finding the edge of Timothy Upadhyay (8) through to keeper Bairstow. Donahue meanwhile resisted well against the fired up Broad who had his fourth victim of the innings when Akbar Vig (4) well caught by Bairstow. And when Donahue grew frustrated at the lack of batsman applying themselves against the moving ball, he took a wild swing at a loose Broad ball which landed in Bairstow’s gloves ending his 135 ball vigil for 82. Next man Casper Sandhu smoked the ball to the boundary on three occasions only to become Broad’s sixth victim and Bairstow’s fifth catch a short while later. Sandhu’s wicket had restricted Papua New Guinea to 183-8 in an all too familiar collapse of the middle order. Atticus Norris (10NO) and Jayant Rege (2NO) prevented any more wickets from falling as they steered PNG to the close of play at 196-8 with a 59 run lead to sit on.
A quick word for Broad whose blistering 12 over spell accounted for 6 Papua New Guinea wickets in a display of high class quality bowling. Regularly beating the bat and constantly causing concerns to the stumps was the cornerstone of Broad’s bowling as he obliterated the middle order including the crucial wicket of well set Donahue for 82. He was ably backed up by Woakes (0-47 from 12), Ali (0-21 from 8) , Curran (2-84 from 22) and Stokes (0-7 from 3) at the other end who dried up the runs effectively.
The jubilant scenes from the previous day seemed to be forgotten when Norris and Rege demonstrated resilient batting against the older and wearing ball. Broad’s threat from Day 2 had been diminishing with Norris in particular playing some fine strokes. These fine strokes along with his entertaining batting technique culminated in a maiden Test match fifty which was richly deserved and set the example for how the middle order should have played. Rege had fallen beforehand for a gallant 25 from 44 balls with the returning Broad and Bairstow combination striking once more.
At 235-9 Papua New Guinea had a small 99 run lead but a partnership of 55 runs between Norris (58NO) and Naryaan Palla (14 from 66 balls) catapulted PNG to 290. Skipper Joe Root persisted with the seam prolonged attack and it paid off at 290 when Broad pierced Palla’s edge through to Bairstow for the 5th time in the innings. A good bowling performance by us was spearheaded from the sensational Broad who bowled immaculately and consistently to remove PNG batsman via their outside edge. 290 had become the top score in the match and would give England an achievable but potentially dangerous 154 runs to wrap up the Test match.
Burns and Wells opened up for us hoping to cement their places and add some valuable runs to their current position. PNG were searching for early wickets with attacking and sometimes bizarre field settings at stages aimed to bamboozle the openers. Norris backed up his superb 58NO in the second innings by immediately striking as the second change bowler nicking off Burns (14) to second slip at 29-1. Captain Root settled instantly and began to up the run rate with quick running and glorious cover drives for 4 the key to his innings. Seemingly in control at 72-1, we became 111-5 and still 43 runs short of a victory.
Joe Root’s counter attacking 33 from 31 balls was ended by Jayant Rege (1-30 from 6) who found Root’s edge through to keeper Donahue. Fellow keeper Bairstow fell quickly for 6, Sandhu the wicket taker, before Luke Wells’ dogged nature was cruelly and wrongly ended by the third umpire following a bat pad review off the seamer Sandhu (2-16 from 9). Replays seem to suggest that Wells had edged the ball onto his pad but the third umpire thought otherwise and he was judged lbw for 36. Jos Buttler ambitiously attempting to sweep leg spinner Ahuja away but was pinned plumb in front for 3. Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali steadied the ship but didn’t relent from their attacking mindset in getting the game completed.
Though Ali fell for 6 abysmally edging to keeper Donahue from Ahuja (2-30) however it was Chris Woakes (15NO from 9) who hammered the ball over the fence to secure victory by 4 wickets in the opening EHTL contest. Ben Stokes found some form finishing up on 34NO from 45 in an encouraging knock for him but most importantly guiding us home despite wickets walking around him.
Papua New Guinea 69 (Som 20, Biswas 13, Donahue 12/ S Curran 5-18, Woakes 3-7, Anderson 1-18)
England 205 (Wells 51, Buttler 50, Bairstow 42/ Palla 3-32, Norris 3-50, Rege 2-36)
Papua New Guinea 290 (Donahue 82, Norris 58*, Biswas 26/ Broad 8-75, S Curran 2-84, Ali 0-21)
England win by 4 wickets
Despite our victory, there are a lot of areas to improve on as Papua New Guinea gave us a very good test after seemingly looking very distant second bests after their first knock. However, they applied themselves fantastically (Donahue and Norris in particular) in the second innings to post a difficult and tough chase for us. We didn’t bat well in both innings and failed to apply ourselves well enough to secure a emphatic win and instead found ourselves creeping towards victory. Our bowling was spot on in both innings led by Sam Curran and Stuart Broad who both obliterated promising partnerships and found the outside edge towards the slips and Bairstow on several occasions. This means that we have very suitable candidates to step up in Anderson’s absence and shape the future of English bowling for good.
In the other two matches, Hong Kong thrashed Germany by an innings and 148 runs with a Tanveer Ahmed century leading the way whilst Mohammad Ghazanfar (5-17) and Ehsan Khan (5-10) demolishing an English county studded German line up. The Hammerby Arena hosted Denmark versus Fiji and saw the home side cruise to a 7 wicket victory. Yorkshire’s Jonny Tattersall starred with bat (62) whilst spinner Yash Christian (6-36) put the icing on the Danish cake. Fiji’s bowler Villaime Manakiwai was unfortunate to be on the losing side after figures of 5-37 and 3-25.
Next up for us is Hong Kong yet again at the Home of Cricket with a fixture error leaving our first 3 home games at Lords…. We will ponder team changes and will have one enforced with the retirement of Jimmy Anderson. Scouts and analysts were sent to the Hong Kong – Germany match to gain insight and knowledge to where we can be successful against the tourists. The team are grateful and thankful for the support in the newly formed league and look forward to our upcoming match aiming to right the wrongs from our victory against PNG.
Jamie Hamilton ( Selection Drafter/Designer for England)