Following his side’s one-run loss to New Zealand in the second Test, England skipper Ben Stokes remarked “it was just incredible,” the match was “what Test cricket is all about” and everyone got their money’s worth.
New Zealand scripted history in Wellington on Tuesday as they became the third team ever to win a Test match after being forced to follow on, when they pulled off a thrilling one-run victory over England in a classic final-day contest in the second Test.
“That game is what Test cricket is about, it was just incredible. The emotions we were going through and obviously the Kiwi boys out there as well. It was incredible to be involved in such a Test match. Everyone has got their money’s worth,” said Stokes in a post-match presentation.
“It was a case of assessing the situations, we always knew that at some point in that partnership (between himself and Root), Tim was gonna have to roll the dice with something. Wags (Neil Wagner) came on and blew the game open for them. For myself and Joe there, that was our opportunity to pounce. Sometimes things do not happen the way you want them to.”
“With those bouncer plans, we had to make a decision and obviously it did not come off for us. It was an opportunity for us to score runs there. As soon as Wagner came on to do those bouncers, I saw it as an opportunity to maybe take 20 runs off the over and then bring the game even more in our favour. Credit to Waggie and Tim for coming up with that idea.
“Better than bad (Stokes on his knee). Disappointing to end with a loss here. We had a great summer last year. We have a few months off before the Ashes. We will look to do what we can,” concluded the captain.
Pacer Neil Wagner (4/62) was the hero for the Kiwis as he had James Anderson caught behind down the leg side to clinch a famous victory for New Zealand at Basin Reserve.
After being put to bat first by NZ, England made 435 at the loss of eight wickets before declaring the innings. The visitors reached a massive score after knocks from Harry Brook (186) and Joe Root (153). Stuart Broad (4/61) was the pick of the bowlers for England. James Anderson (3/37) and Jack Leach (3/80) also impressed with the ball.
In their first innings, New Zealand was bundled out for 209 runs. Skipper Tim Southee performed a brilliant rescue act, scoring 73 in 49 balls, with five fours and six sixes. He drove Kiwis out of trouble when it was struggling at 103/7.
Leach picked up a fifer, taking 5/157. Ollie Robinson, Broad, Root and Harry Brook also took a wicket each. NZ was trailing by 226 runs in the match at that point and the visitors enforced a follow-on.
In their second innings, while following on, NZ fought back their way into the match, scoring 483 runs before being bundled out. Top knocks from former skipper Kane Williamson (132), wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell (90), Tom Latham (83), Devon Conway (61) and all-rounder Daryl Mitchell (54) guided NZ to a huge total.
NZ gained a lead of 257 runs in the match and gave a target of 258 to win to England.
England was struggling at 80/5 during their chase. From that point on, Root and skipper Stokes started building a partnership. They both put on a stand of 121 runs for the sixth wicket, taking their side beyond the 200-run mark.
However, Wagner came through with a game-changing spell. He dismissed Stokes for 33 and Root for 95 runs. Wicketkeeper-batter Ben Foakes (35) tried his level best to take his side across the finishing line, but failed as Wagner dismissed Anderson. England was dismissed for 256 runs, losing the match by just one run.
With this, England and NZ end the series level at 1-1.
Kane Williamson was adjudged as ‘Man of the Match’ for his remarkable century while Harry Brook won the ‘Man of the Series’ award for scoring 329 runs in the series.
New Zealand join two other teams (India and England) to have won a Test match after being forced to follow on, with the most recent prior to this clash coming back in 2001 when India clinched an unlikely win against Australia in Kolkata.
The Kiwis’ winning margin of one run is just the second time in the history of Test cricket that a match has been decided by that narrow margin, with the only other occurrence coming in 1993 when the West Indies pulled off a similar triumph over Australia in Adelaide.
The match was not part of the current World Test Championship period, with both New Zealand and England already out of contention for reaching June’s final.
The loss was just England’s second since Brendon McCullum took over as coach early last year, with their next five-day contest coming in a one-off Test against Ireland at the start of June.
England then embarks on a five-match series against arch-rival Australia as part of this year’s Ashes series on home soil. The prestigious series will start from June 16 onwards.
New Zealand host Sri Lanka for a two-match series at home next month, with the Asian side still with an outside chance of reaching the World Test Championship final, should results fall their way. (ANI)