Cricket: Bitter-tasting share of the honours

By David Leggat

The odds favoured New Zealand to win the final test but England put on a show of magnificent defiance.

New Zealand's Dean Brownlee, Tim Southee, Peter Fulton, Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum are pensive yesterday after the last day of the third test at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand's Dean Brownlee, Tim Southee, Peter Fulton, Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum are pensive yesterday after the last day of the third test at Eden Park. Photo / Brett Phibbs

New Zealand will awake this morning with the bitter taste of a job not completed at Eden Park.

They should also be acknowledging a magnificent defensive operation by England which enabled them to leave the country today with a share of the honours from a drawn test series.

It didn't seem that would be the case on Monday night, at which point England were 90 for four and still 391 shy of the winning target, and the odds favoured New Zealand.

But in a gripping finale, down to the final ball, England hung on, finishing on 315 for nine, wicketkeeper Matt Prior the rock on 110 and Monty Panesar on two, having survived by, various means, five balls.

The day had New Zealand fielders circling the batsman for much of it, and a string of slip-gully fielders hovering for edges. You don't see that often. Too few edges came, although two that did were spilled just before lunch, one a crucial miss.

Considering New Zealand were given little chance before the ANZ international series test leg began, it has been a good three weeks for the national side.

They mightn't think so right now and that is right. It will be painful reliving the day, but the knowledge they dominated the world's No 2 side for most of the match should help.

New Zealand had their chances to win a terrific victory but couldn't take them.

That said, England's batsmen, particularly Prior, Ian Bell, Joe Root and Stuart Broad were unable to be shifted in time to get to the soft tail.

When Bell, on 39, was dropped by Dean Brownlie at third slip in the over before lunch off Trent Boult, he stayed put another two hours, getting to 75.

On 28, Prior had a lifter from Neil Wagner bounce off his bat, over his head down on to the stumps, striking them on the way down, but not dislodging the bails.

Prior's methods were intriguing. He happily pulled, cut and drove through the afternoon in a situation others may have eschewed offensive shots in favour of stepping into a shell.

Broad, by contrast, hunkered down, officially taking 104 minutes before getting off the mark, thereby removing New Zealand's Geoff Allott's 102-minute scoreless stop against South Africa on the same ground in 1999 from the record books.

He simply couldn't be shifted, at one point surviving on referral an lbw against Boult while spread-eagled on the ground and wearing the end of his bat handle in his throat.

By the end Prior had batted 268 minutes, faced 182 balls and hit 20 boundaries. His management of the situation was top class. He looked as if he wouldn't be shifted in another 268 minutes.

Twice he French cut the ball just past his stumps. There was enough in the pitch to keep the seamers charging in, although they might have hoped for more on the final day.

Kane Williamson offered a final glimmer, with two wickets in three balls. But Panesar, a nervy dab at his first ball and a slapstick run, dive and scramble to avoid a run-out, hung on.

So maybe it wasn't meant to be.

The seamers, Boult, Tim Southee and Wagner worked to a standstill. Next up, it's England again, in England.

- NZ Herald

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