A reverend, a rabbi and a Buddhist nun walked into Lord’s. No joke. They were all taking part in a multi‑faith celebration of cricket organised during the lunch interval by the England and Wales Cricket Board’s outgoing CEO, Tom Harrison. It was billed as a demonstration of English cricket’s ability to bring people together. Out on the field, England’s bowlers were doing a pretty good job of that too.

The stands were full, the sun was out, and the grass underneath it brilliant green. Jimmy Anderson was on from one end, Stuart Broad the other, the slips were catching bullets and New Zealand were seven for three, then 27 for five, then 45 for seven.

It was one of those mornings, vanishingly rare in recent years, when it felt as if English cricket actually worked. The arguments that have riddled the game here in the last year began to slip out of mind. That’s what those £160 tickets buy you, a day with your cares left behind. Unless one of them is the cost of living, that is. The Lord’s Test is priceless if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it.

They got a lot for the money, at least. With the ball seaming and swinging, the opposition reeling, new England felt something like old England. Not the lot who turned up here to play New Zealand this time last year, conceded a lead of 103 and ended up batting out a boring draw, but some other prelapsarian side from your mind’s dewy eye.

You could almost anticipate the nostalgia that people will feel looking back on the day they saw Broad and Anderson in their late‑era pomp. Maybe this feeling follows them around now. They turn 36 and 40 respectively this summer and neither they, nor anyone else, can be sure exactly how many more games they have left to play.

It’s not too many hops across the multiverse to the world in which they had quit already. Over there, Broad started the day 100m further back and 30m higher up, with the rest of Sky’s commentary team in Lord’s new Shane Warne media box, while Anderson is off hoeing the crops in his allotment while he waits for Lancashire’s championship match against Warwickshire next week. Both have said they considered retiring after that strange decision (which even now no one seems to have owned up to making) to leave them out of England’s tour of the West Indies in March.

Matt Potts punches the air after taking the wicket of Kane Williamson at Lord’s
Matt Potts punches the air after taking the wicket of Kane Williamson. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

England’s new managing director, Rob Key, says his idea is that the team should enjoy Anderson and Broad while they have them, Anderson and Broad seem to have decided, likewise, that they should make the most of the days they have left too. Both of them bowled fuller here than they have done in England in recent years, you guess because the new coach, Brendon McCullum, had urged them both to attack the batsmen. CricViz’s data showed that the last time England had pitched the ball up so much in a home Test was in the Ashes Test at Headingley in 2019.

Sometimes you find old bowlers pull their lengths, just like old boxers pull their punches, in self-preservation. There was none of that here. Anderson’s first over was right up at Tom Latham. He probed away at his off stump with the precision of a Harley Street surgeon. Latham’s obvious confusion about whether to play and what to leave betrayed New Zealand’s lack of preparation for this series. It was only the fifth innings he’s played in the last two months, and he, and the rest of the team, were struggling for touch.

Facing Anderson and Broad on a bowling day at Lord’s remains one of the most formidable challenges in the game, hard enough in mid-season trim, almost impossible when you’re batting like it’s early spring. Anderson peeled off one, two, three, four maiden overs in a row, and had both openers caught in the slips while he was doing it. He finally conceded a run when New Zealand’s No 5, Daryl Mitchell, clipped him for four through midwicket. At the other end, Broad, determined to bowl straight and make the batsmen play, was only a little more expensive. He had Devon Conway caught in the slips, which made it seven for three.

Anderson pressed on, while Broad made way for the new boy Matt Potts. He was palpably quicker than either of them, so that Kane Williamson almost seemed caught out by the sudden change of pace.

Potts’s bowling comes at the batsman like a wasp at a jam sandwich and Williamson found himself swatting and flapping at the ball. Potts got him and the rest of the middle order. He ended up scrapping over the tail-end batsmen with Anderson, who had a couple caught on the boundary as New Zealand tried to hit their way out of the mess they were in, to see which of them would get their five-for. In the end it was neither. But still, it was some performance from the three of them.

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Even then you knew there would be harder days ahead for England. What you could never have guessed was that this would turn out to be one of them. They ended up losing five wickets for eight runs in their own innings, and collapsed from 92 for two to 100 for seven, so that all of a sudden New Zealand’s meagre 132 seemed a challenging proposition. England’s problem was never bowling on a helpful pitch, but batting on one.