A bad week off the field was in danger of getting worse on it as England’s fragile batsmen fluffed their lines in front of a big, noisy crowd at their favourite ground.
But, with a crisis over historic tweets quickly being followed by a traditional batting collapse, at least one of their young guns provided the entertainment promised by Joe Root.
Dan Lawrence was the clear favourite to stand down from this weakened England line-up once Ben Stokes returns for the serious business of a five-Test series against India.
Dan Lawrence went some way towards rescuing England from the depths of 175 for six with a classy unbeaten 67
He showed considerable elan as he went on to his third half century in his seventh Test
It was Rory Burns, in company with Lawrence, who initially steadied the England ship
Not now. Not after he went some way towards rescuing England from the depths of 175 for six with a classy unbeaten 67 to steer one of the longest tails in recent history to the relative riches of 258 for seven at the close of the first day of the second Test.
England are not out of the mire yet against a New Zealand side still mightily impressive and potent despite making six changes from the first Test, with an eye on next week’s World Championship final against India.
But at least they are on their way to giving the first airing of their potential Ashes attacking formula – with two genuine quick bowlers and two more who bring control – something to bowl with on what looks like an excellent Edgbaston pitch.
It was a good and true surface, perhaps, but there was plenty of movement in the air for New Zealand after Root had won the toss, not least for the returning Trent Boult and a reserve with plenty of county experience in Matt Henry.
Matt Henry celebrates taking the wicket of England captain Joe Root at Edgbaston
Together they exposed an England team consistently falling short of their simple game-plan of showing enough application to put big first innings runs on the board.
There was nothing wrong with the application of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley as a pair of England openers batted through the first session of a home Test for the first time since Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss against India at the Oval in 2011.
But once Sibley, who batted throughout the go-slow at Lord’s on Sunday that drew so much criticism of England’s lack of intent, became the first of four wickets to fall in the middle session the boisterous Edgbaston house was in danger of crashing down.
Zak Crawley looks bereft of all fluency and confidence and his staggering decline since the extraordinary high of that 267 against Pakistan last summer was encapsulated by his third painfully soft dismissal of the series.
It was a failure for Zak Crawley, dismissed for a duck by Neil Wagner as England crumbled
Root was soon following Crawley and Sibley back to the pavilion after falling to Henry for four
Much, as ever, was on the shoulders of the captain but Root has had the most difficult of times dealing with the social media storm that has engulfed his side and looked distracted before playing a loose shot to quickly follow Crawley.
Ollie Pope, too, is starting to badly need a score after looking far too frenetic again and cutting the left-arm spin of Ajaz Patel into the gloves of Tom Blundell, a late call-up behind the stumps after BJ Watling pulled out with a back problem.
It was Burns, in company with Lawrence, who initially steadied the England ship and looked likely to make his second century of the series before being undone by a rare lapse of concentration fishing against Boult.
And the left-armer, such a key part of the New Zealand attack, was on a hat-trick when poor James Bracey pushed meekly at his first ball and was out for his second duck in his second Test innings. He hung his head in disbelief at the brutality of it all.
Ollie Pope can’t believe it after he is dismissed by Ajaz Patel for 19, England’s fourth wicket
Some 18,000 spectators were inside Edgbaston in Birmingham as part of the pilot event
Lawrence, as befits a gifted but unorthodox batsmen, had his own shaky moments, not least when he edged two balls from the same Henry over through third man to the boundary. And when he got a thin edge to Patel on 36 that went in and out of Blundell’s gloves.
But an Essex batsman who showed his mental strength in adversity in India during the winter grew in confidence and showed considerable elan as he went on to his third half century in his seventh Test and his first at home.
With him, in a stand of 47 for the seventh wicket, was the unlikely figure of Olly Stone, promoted to eight on his home ground as part of arguably the longest England tail since Duncan Fletcher was horrified at the sight of Andrew Caddick, Alan Mullally, Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins making up the bottom four against New Zealand at the Oval in 1999.
Fancy dress was the order of the day for these cavemen in the stands at Edgbaston
These fans came dressed in banana costumes as Edgbaston was allowed to be 70 per cent full
There is method behind England’s apparent madness. As Sportsmail revealed on Thursday, England want to take on Australia with this attacking combination and decided batting depth had to be sacrificed in the name of experimentation.
Not to mention the lack of a spinner again on a pitch where Patel gained first day turn in taking two wickets. Root will provide England’s spin, and should have some rough to work with here outside the right-hander’s off-stump created by Boult and Neil Wagner, as he will do in the Ashes.
Stone, with a first-class career average of 15, acquitted himself ppretty well to make 20 before missing a sweep off Patel but Mark Wood kept Lawrence company until the close with just the old campaigners in Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, in his record-breaking 162nd Test appearance, to come.
It was not quite enough to justify Root’s attacking pledge in defence of his team’s tactics at Lord’s but it was enough to keep a celebratory crowd of 17,000 more than happy. And they will be in ecstasy if England can get beyond 300 on Friday.
With Lawrence, in a stand of 47 for the seventh wicket, was the unlikely figure of Olly Stone
James Anderson has become England’s most capped Test cricketer as he makes his 162nd appearance in the second Test with New Zealand at Edgbaston