London: Devon Conway became just the sixth batsman to score a hundred on Test debut at Lord’s to leave New Zealand well-placed at stumps on the first day of their series opener against England that saw home newcomer Ollie Robinson engulfed in a racism row.
South Africa-born opener Conway batted for the whole of Wednesday’s play, for an unbeaten 136 out of New Zealand’s 246-3 in a match that marks the return of spectators to international cricket in England after a 2020 season played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Together with fellow left-hander Henry Nicholls (46 not out), Conway shared an unbroken stand of 132 after the tourists, who face India in the inaugural World Test Championship final later this month, were struggling at 114-3 on the first day of this two-match series.
“It’s a very good feeling, I’ll have some time to let that settle in but, as a player, the job’s not done – I’m very happy though!,” Conway told Sky Sports after joining the ranks of New Zealand batsmen, including current captain Kane Williamson to have scored a Test hundred at Lord’s.
“I had a conversation with Kane Williamson and asked him what it feels like to be on that honours board and the first thing he said to me (when I got back to the changing room) was, ‘now you know, boy!’
On a day for debutants, Robinson led England’s attack with 2-50 in 16 overs.
But the 27-year-old Sussex fast bowler found himself having to apologise after racist and sexist historic Twitter messages he had posted as a teenager resurfaced.
The posts, dating back to 2012, left Robinson in an especially difficult position given both teams had lined up before play for a ‘Moment of Unity’ designed to show their opposition to discrimination within cricket.
“On the biggest day of my career so far, I am embarrassed by the racist and sexist tweets that I posted over eight years ago, which have today become public,” Robinson said after stumps.
“I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist.”
“I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks.”
England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison added Robinson would now face a disciplinary process.
“Any person reading those words, particularly a woman or person of colour, would take away an image of cricket and cricketers that is completely unacceptable,” said Harrison.
“We have a zero-tolerance stance to any form of discrimination and there are rules in place that handle conduct of this nature.”
England, in the absence of the injured Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, opted to field four right-arm quick bowlers and no specialist spinner after Jack Leach was omitted from their XI.
The only real variety came when England captain Joe Root bowled his occasional off-breaks.
Conway was thrust into the action immediately after Williamson won the toss in what was New Zealand’s first match at Lord’s since an agonising ‘Super Over’ loss to England in the 2019 World Cup final.
But while Williamson and fellow senior batsman Ross Taylor both fell cheaply, the 29-year-old Conway pressed on to a 163-ball century, reaching the landmark with a flamboyant whipped legside four off Robinson.
Only five other batsmen had previously scored a Test debut hundred at Lord’s.
New Zealand were 85-1 at lunch after Robinson had Tom Latham playing on for 23.
But James Anderson, equalling retired former captain Alastair Cook’s England record of 161 Test appearances, struck in the first over after the interval when Williamson played on for 13.
Robinson then had Taylor lbw for 14.