New Zealand v England: Ish Sodhi guides hosts to draw and series win
|Second Test, Christchurch (Hagley Oval), day five:|
|England 307 & 352-9 dec: Vince 76, Stoneman 60, De Grandhomme 4-94|
|New Zealand 278 & 256-8: Latham 83, Sodhi 56 not out, Wood 2-45|
|Match drawn – NZ win series 1-0|
New Zealand held their nerve to secure a dramatic draw against England in the second Test in Christchurch and claim a 1-0 series victory.
Stuart Broad dismissed Jeet Raval (19) and Kane Williamson for a duck with the first two deliveries of the day.
England sensed an opportunity when Colin de Grandhomme (45) holed out with 27 overs remaining.
However Ish Sodhi’s unbeaten 56, along with Neil Wagner’s 103-ball stay, was enough to see the Black Caps home.
It means England end the winter without a win in Test cricket – they lost the Ashes 4-0, with a draw in Melbourne – and have not won away from home for 13 matches.
Despite the odd individual performance, it has been a poor winter for England, and questions still remain over their batting line-up and back-up bowlers to Broad and James Anderson.
New Zealand came close to defeat but Sodhi remained resilient, facing 168 balls in 197 minutes to keep England at bay, while Wagner offered solid support in the final hour.
The two held on to claim New Zealand’s first series victory at home over England since 1983-84 – before any of the current side were born – and ensure they end their season unbeaten in Tests.
NZ come close to throwing it away
England could not have asked for a better start to the morning as they searched for their first victory away from home since beating Bangladesh in 2016.
Raval, resuming on 19, clipped a half-volley from Broad straight to Mark Stoneman at mid-wicket, before Williamson feathered an edge through to Jonny Bairstow to fall for a golden duck for the first time in 64 Tests.
Ross Taylor survived the hat-trick ball from Broad but he was ultimately the first of a series of poor dismissals, lap-sweeping left-armer Leach straight to Alastair Cook at slip for 13.
A loose drive to Anderson cost Henry Nicholls while BJ Watling was disbelieving when he guided a delivery from Mark Wood straight to the waiting leg slip.
Of the top order, Tom Latham resisted the longest for 83, spending 283 minutes at the crease, but he top-edged a sweep to Leach and James Vince, running in from the deep, took a fine diving catch.
The evening session was a tussle, Leach and Root finding turn and bounce, De Grandhomme and Sodhi reining themselves in. For the majority of the afternoon and early evening, it felt as though things were drifting to a draw.
But De Grandhomme was unable to resist a short ball from Wood, and he smashed his bat into the turf in dismay as Leach ran forward and took a fine catch to dismiss him and set up a tense evening.
Tense hour as NZ battle to draw
Such was England’s desperation to win, the majority of the dressing room got involved.
Substitute fielders Moeen Ali and Craig Overton, along with team manager Phil Neale, were sat beyond the boundary during the evening session to throw the ball back and ensure no time was wasted.
With Tim Southee struggling with a virus – although he was able to bat if required – it was down to Sodhi and Wagner to defend their way through the final overs.
Wood, who improved as the match went on, targeted Sodhi and Wagner with short balls, striking both players, while Leach found enough turn from a relatively placid surface to trouble the batsmen.
With 16 overs remaining, Root was fielding on his knees at silly point to Wood, trying desperately to force a wicket. They came close, as Sodhi took a nasty blow to the glove that flew just over Anderson at gully.
Edges flew from the shoulder of Sodhi’s bat in the final hour and, with half-an-hour to go, there was a chance for Stoneman at forward short leg, but he had just 0.343 seconds to react and try to take a low catch off Broad.
Sodhi and Wagner were together for 188 tense balls but Root, with two deliveries remaining, had Wagner caught at short leg. Wagner reviewed – and once it was confirmed, the light had deteriorated too much to continue.
Five years ago, England held out in Auckland to save the series. It seemed fitting, then, that the Black Caps kept their nerve here to win just their fourth series against the tourists.
Long winter finally ends for England
England have been away for more than 21 weeks since departing for Australia in October.
In that time they have been bowled out for 58, lost the Ashes 4-0, lost three of their seven Tests by an innings and had to answer questions about their off-field conduct.
There are some positives. Bairstow, who made a century in the first innings here, has performed strongly with the bat and the gloves, while Anderson has been the stand-out bowler. Leach, too, put in an impressive performance on debut.
However, the questions that England had at the start of the series against Australia still remain.
Neither Stoneman nor Vince have convincingly secured their places in the top-order and Cook’s form remains shaky, while England have chopped and changed their bowling attack beyond Broad and Anderson.
There are five rounds of County Championship matches before England’s first Test of the home summer against Pakistan in May, meaning there is enough time for players outside of the team to stake their claim.
‘England leave with as many questions as they arrived with’ – what they said
England captain Joe Root: “It’s been a long winter. It’s not gone our way throughout the whole trip. I thought the way we went about it today was brilliant.
“These are the games you want to be involved with. We were pushing hard for that win and I’m really proud of the lads.”
Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann: “They will leave New Zealand with as many questions as they had when they arrived, which is disappointing.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “You can separate white-ball and red-ball, but for the Test side it’s been a disappointing winter without a win.”