Alastair Cook saluted a “real team effort” as England began their Ashes summer in style with a 124-run victory over a valiant New Zealand in the first Investec Test at Lord’s.
England’s off-field dramas in the build-up to the series with the Kiwis appear to have been largely forgotten over the last five days of intense and exciting cricket, culminating in England taking a 1-0 lead following several star turns.
Ben Stokes was the obvious highlight, following up a knock of 92 in the first innings with a swashbuckling 85-ball century in the second - the fastest ever seen at Lord’s in a Test match - before taking three precious wickets on Monday as New Zealand were all out for 220 in front of a lively crowd at HQ.
However, the in-form Joe Root continues to shine with the bat, paceman Mark Wood showed flashes of brilliance in a promising debut while Cook looked back to his obdurate best in his 162 in the second innings.
The England skipper told Sky Sports 2: “It was a real team effort this week. It’s been a bit of a rocky road over the last two weeks for us as a side, so to come out and play with that freedom and that passion, the lads and backroom staff can be very proud of that.
“Today, we’ve just got to concentrate on what a fantastic Test match it’s been. People can be very proud of the way they’ve played this week.
“I think we’ve been incredibly lucky with the support we’ve had with that English side. To have a full house in the fifth day of a Lord’s Test match is a credit to everyone who’s turned out today and I think it’s been a brilliant Test match.
“When Stokesy got two wickets in two balls, I can’t actually remember Lord’s being louder.”
Cook was tight-lipped over reports linking Trevor Bayliss with the vacant England coaching job. Speculation was rife during Monday that the Australian had replaced compatriot Jason Gillespie at the head of new ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss’ wishlist.
While Cook would welcome a new coach, with Paul Farbrace occupying a temporary role, he said: “All the other stuff, this ‘external stuff’ as we keep calling it, we’ve just got to let that be whatever it is.
“Obviously it would be great if we do have a new coach.
“We’re a little bit in limbo but if we’re in a little bit in limbo and keep playing like that I’ll be happy.”
All-rounder Stokes acknowledged that his feats across the last five days have been a career highlight but echoed his captain’s sentiments about the team performance.
‘’Without a doubt,’’ he said. ‘’The whole game in itself was pretty special. The game kept on switching momentum from side to side and the crowd throughout the whole five days was absolutely fantastic, especially today.”
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was proud of his side’s efforts.
“I thought we played our part in a tremendous Test match. Great credit to England. Even when we were dominating they kept going and they played an enterprising brand of cricket. The game was played in a tremendous spirit too.
“We got over 730 runs in the Test and still lost by more than 100 runs. It’s not every day that happens but we hold our heads high. It’s such a fine line between success and failure.”