Having picked Devon Conway ahead of Tom Blundell and Will Young for the second opener’s slot at Lord’s, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson had stressed on the word “experience” as he talked up his team’s latest debutant.
“He’s (Conway) an experienced player,” Williamson said ahead of the first Test against England, as per ESPNcricinfo. “He’s played a lot of first-class cricket.”
For the record, Devon Conway had played 108 first-class matches before stepping on the field at Lord’s on Wednesday, with 7,130 runs at an impressive average of 47.21. Since shifting base to New Zealand, Conway has been a prolific run-scorer for Wellington in the Plunket Shield.
Devon Conway is set to make his Test debut today:
His FC record in the Plunket Shield since landing in New Zealand ⬇️
— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) June 2, 2021
Yet, while presenting Devon Conway with the “opportunity to make his debut at the home of cricket”, Williamson would’ve known there is no substitute to actual Test match environment and how much of a greater challenge it is.
To make matters worse for the left-hander, he were to face the new red Dukes ball against James Anderson and Stuart Broad – inarguably the most threatening English pace duo seen at the Test level – on a fresh track in the first half of the summer with no real preparations behind him.
However, what transpired over the course of the first hour and the entire day thereafter, would’ve surely impressed Williamson and the Kiwi team management, as Devon Conway vindicated their trust with a nerveless and secure display of batsmanship.
Is Devon Conway someone India must watch out for?
Conway didn’t let the magnitude of the occasion get to his head and stood his ground firm, exhibiting good knowledge of his off-stump – reflected in how he confidently left the ball and how measured he looked playing on the frontfoot.
Admittedly, there wasn’t as much swing and seam on offer for the English attack in the morning session, but Conway didn’t shrewdly plant his frontfoot and look to drive on the up. He hit only the real full ones through covers. There was no bravado on show, saying ‘come see me’, but some really sensible Test match batting, mindful of the bigger picture for himself and his team.
In recent times, left-handers have had a really tough time dealing with the around-the-wicket angle against fast-bowlers in Test cricket. Conway forced the England seamers to go over-the-wicket with some “good economy of movement” at the crease, something Rob Key pointed out from the commentary box when he hit Mark Wood for a perfect straight drive.
Interestingly, Wood went back to ‘around-the-wicket’ and targetted Devon Conway with the bouncers, which was the first time all session that he looked in real trouble. Wood had a deliberate ploy to try aim for the body and disturb Conway’s rhythm and concentration.
That short passage near lunch where Williamson looked to farm most of the strike will be of interest to not just the English but also Indian bowlers, who’ll soon be bowling to Conway in the World Test Championship final at Southampton.
Post lunch, however, it was clear that Conway hasn’t let the bouncer ploy create any psychological dent to his headspace and affect his batting as he commendably got on the top of the ball and hit it through the on-side.
On a more bouncy and seaming track at Lord’s, England would’ve tested Devon Conway’s technique a lot more. But for now, he can certainly look back at his veteranesque maiden Test match knock of 136* with a lot of satisfaction and take confidence from it, as he surpassed Sourav Ganguly to become the top-scoring overseas debutant at Lord’s.
With a decently-built technique and good powers of concentration and stamina to bat long hours, Devon Conway proved through his knock to be a player that India must be wary of and prepare earnestly for.