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Cricket: Opening day stalemate for Black Caps

There might have been a seven-week hiatus in the 'five-test series' between New Zealand and England but once again neither XI could completely dominate on the opening day stalemate.

Conservatism was England's watchword on their way to 160 for four when rain stopped play with the new ball due.

Apart from Nick Compton lashing out in frustration against Bruce Martin late in the first session, rash shots were as rare as women in the members' pavilion (a quick scout with the field glasses revealed one breaching the male enclave yesterday).

Perhaps England's capitulation for 167 in the opening home test at Dunedin weighed heavily. The world's second-ranked team refused to underestimate their eighth-ranked counterparts.

Consequently New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who applied the 'five-test series' moniker at his pre-match media conference, could afford to attack most of the day with three slips and a gully as England's plodded through sessions, in order, of 56 for one, 57 for two and 47 for one.

New Zealand bowled 30 maiden overs out of 80. There was a hint of matador (England) and bull (New Zealand).

Rain is forecast for at least two of the final four days, depending on where you source your meteorology, so something has to give soon if this is to amble towards anything other than a fourth consecutive draw.

Trent Boult is one player with the potential to tilt the match balance as the pick of New Zealand's bowlers. Despite figures of five overs, none for two, in his first spell from the Nursery End he couldn't find rhythm.

That changed with subsequent spells at both ends as he out-thought England captain Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott. He swung a ball away from the left-handed Cook after leaking just two runs from 35 deliveries at him.

In contrast he'd been swinging the ball into the right-handed Trott but got one to hold its line. Dean Brownlie snaffled a candidate for catch of the series, diving to his left at third slip.

The catch went some way to exonerating Bruce Martin's caught-and-bowled spill off Trott's third ball when he was yet to score.

Trott made 39 but given he gets past 50 in 32 per cent of his innings, New Zealand got off lightly. Boult shapes as a worthy honours board contender as he continues his ascendancy as a strike bowler. He left with figures of two for 29 from 17 overs.

England's Boult equivalent is Joe Root. On the back of county championship form compiling 646 runs at 161.5 - including three centuries in four innings - he is eking out a worthy innings (25 not out) in his first home test. Renowned as an opening batsman, his temperament is exemplary.

McCullum's initial frustration at a lack of wickets saw Martin enter the attack in just the 21st over. He justified the decision by coaxing Compton into a momentary lapse of reason off his seventh ball. Compton stepped down and miscued to Southee running from backward point.

Despite Martin's dropped catch he had an otherwise solid day. He justified his inclusion after a head-to-head challenge with Doug Bracewell. New Zealand has now played the same starting XI for a fourth consecutive test.

Oh, how Martin must have beamed when he drew back the curtains to sunshine and predominantly blue sky, thus nullifying the prospect of extra swing and a flirtation with Bracewell. A drier than expected wicket suggested there might also be later turn.

Neil Wagner asked the most questions early by bowling a fuller length and giving the ball its best chance to move. His dismissal of Ian Bell late in the day with a ball that held its line meant the selection of two left-armers, despite creating extra footmarks for returning off-spinner Graeme Swann, was warranted.

A fine day with limited moisture in the air offered minimal assistance for New Zealand before lunch. However, the visitors hardly maximised their chances. The option to leave was regularly accepted by England.

The early star of the day was the Lord's hovercraft. The spaceship-like machine which vibrates its way onto the home of cricket has helped groundstaff produce what seemed a sound batting pitch despite the inclement weather in the build-up.

Viewing the wicket over the past couple of days left the impression the captain who won the toss would bellow for a new ball. McCullum indicated as much.

However, a green tinge had been shaved to reveal a browner hue by the start of play. Cook called the toss correctly and shot off to don the pads.

This is New Zealand's 16th test at Lord's for just one win in 1999 under captain Stephen Fleming. The 2008 test finished in a rain-affected draw. This could be déjà vu.

Scoreboard Day 1

- NZ Herald

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