WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Tim Southee’s New Zealand team earned two places in international cricket history with its dramatic, one-run comeback win over England in the second test.
It was only the fourth team after England (in 1894 and 1981) and India (in 2001) to win a test match after being forced to follow-on and only the second after the West Indies to win by a margin of one run.
New Zealand also was part of one of the most tense final days of a test match when at various times both teams had victory in their grasp and even a rare tie seemed possible. At the start of Day 5, a New Zealand win seemed the most unlikely of all possible scenarios: it had lost the series-opening match by 267 runs and been forced to follow-on 226 runs behind in the second test.
New Zealand was depleted: its bowling lineup depended heavily on the new ball pair of Tim Southee and Matt Henry in the absence of Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson.
Neil Wagner had been demoted from the new ball role he had in the first test but it was the pugnacious bowler who had the foremost role on the last day when he took four wickets and held three catches.
New Zealand now can rest after saving its unbeaten run in test series at home which stretches back to 2017.
England will return home to regroup for the Ashes series against Australia in July. But it no longer is heading into that series with almost juggernaut momentum after coming to the end of a six-test winning streak.
On a day of constant twists and turns Tuesday, Joe Root scored 95 in a partnership of 121 with Ben Stokes (33) which appeared to have secured England’s victory and a 2-0 win in the two-match series.
Root and Stokes were out within a run of each other with 56 runs still needed and the match which had been heading England’s way tilted back in favor of New Zealand with seven wickets down.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes then made 35, facing down the New Zealand attack and shepherding the tailenders to get England within seven runs of victory before his dismissal triggered another twist.
No. 11 James Anderson clubbed a boundary off Wagner which left England two runs from a match and series victory. Then in the last, dramatic moment, Anderson was caught down the leg side by a diving Tom Blundell from the bowling of Wagner.
In a defining comeback for Wagner and his short-pitch bowling, he returned figures of 4-62 and was instrumental in the win.
“It’s a special win this and we’ll celebrate what is an amazing achievement,” Wagner said. “I think it’s just the character of the team. We love to fight for one another, find a way and keep on doing the hard yards out there.”
The grassy banks of Wellington’s Basin Reserve were crowded on a workday Tuesday to see the denouement of an already extraordinary match.
For the second time in the series, Stokes made an assertive first innings declaration with England 435-9. England then bowled out New Zealand for only 209 to take a 226-run first innings lead.
Stokes chose to enforce the follow-on with his attack having bowled 53.2 overs and the second innings became an ordeal as Kane Williamson made 132 and New Zealand batted more than 160 overs to post 483, setting England 258 to win.
England came into the final day at 48-1, still needing 210 runs but with the odds on its side and 103 overs in the day. Under Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum and the so-called Bazball approach to the game, England has won six tests while chasing, notably scoring 378 to beat India at Birmingham last year.
But when New Zealand took four wickets in the first hour, the equilibrium of the match was disturbed. England lost nightwatchman Ollie Robinson, Ben Duckett and then Ollie Pope and Harry Brook — run out without facing a ball — to slip to 80-5.
Brook’s wicket was crucial after he made 186 in the first innings for his fourth century in five tests.
Root and Stokes seemed to have repaired the England innings but Wagner’s double blow to dismiss them both in consecutive overs was yet another turning point. Foakes’ diligent innings ensured a thrilling finish as the upper hand in the match passed moment by moment from one team to the other. Even England’s Barmy Army of fans was largely rendered silent as they watched the action in almost breathless tension.
“It’s obviously very disappointing to get a loss here with the great winter we’ve had,” Stokes said. But “to be able to come away and win four out of five away from home is something we’ll take great pride in. “
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