Heroic Last-Day Effort Salvages Draw For England
Auckland 2013 can go down alongside Cardiff and Centurion 2009 as well as Cape Town 2010 as one of England's finest rearguard efforts after they defied everything New Zealand had to bat through the final day of the third Test at Eden Park.
Resuming on 90 for four, they made it to lunch on 158 for five but a century from Matthew Prior, and a nervous final few moments after New Zealand had taken two wickets in three balls to expose Monty Panesar, saw England draw the match, and ensure the series was tied 0-0.
Prior was unbeaten on 110 in 182 balls while Ian Bell had done a sterling shift earlier on by making an uncharacteristic, but necessary 75 in 271 deliveries, England eventually closing on 315 for nine.
Stuart Broad ground out six runs in 77 balls during a 67-run eighth-wicket partnership and although Kane Williamson dismissed both he and James Anderson in the 140th over of the innings, England held on, Panesar not out on two in five balls as they successfully batted for 143 overs in all.
It had looked like New Zealand were going to finish off the job when Trent Boult got his hands on the new ball not long before lunch and immediately had Joe Root trapped in front for 29.
He then saw both Bell and Jonathan Bairstow dropped at slip in one over and although Bairstow would depart soon after lunch for just six, missing Bell proved pivotal.
In all, he batted for 271 deliveries with nine fours, showing admirable reserves of concentration, self-discipline and application as he and Prior added 78 together for the seventh wicket.
By the time he finally fell, England had batted for 110.3 overs and needed to survive for another 30-odd with three wickets in hand. The odds were still stacked in New Zealand's favour although Prior and Broad weren't about to fold.
Whereas Bell had locked his shots and attacking nature away, Prior played at a pace more suited to a first or second innings. It was a gem; 110 in 182 balls, and one of his best. It wasn't without luck, as at one point the ball did beat him, hit the stumps but didn't dislodge the bails. On such fine margins are series won and lost.
Broad, meanwhile, was virtually strokeless, taking time out of the game and the more the pair stayed together, the more New Zealand began to tire and the more the idea that England could escape began to take shape.
It is a curious, and arguably wonderful, facet of Test cricket that England fans watching this game were turning up and tuning in hoping to see and hear very little. The more leaves, blocks and deliveries threatening neither stumps nor boundary, the better.
Then, with under five overs to go, Broad fell, caught by Ross Taylor off Wiliamson and the match was back in the balance. Two balls later, the same combination snapped up Anderson with Prior helpless at the other end, now with only his Sussex team-mate Panesar for company.
Monty has been here before, however. In Cardiff, in 2009, he and Anderson survived 69 deliveries to see off Australia. Here, he saw off Williamson's final ball, took a single from the first ball of the next and then bravely resisted for three more in the final over before wisely grabbing a single to get Prior back on strike.
Boult, who finished with one for 55, bent his back and made Prior play on each remaining occasion but there was to be no way through. A leg-side clip. A drive to point. A stoic block. Match drawn.
Sometimes draws can be equally dramatic, perhaps even more so, than victories and defeats. This was a case in point, and sets up the two-Test series in May rather nicely.
© Cricket World 2013
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