New Zealand completed a dramatic fightback on the last day to beat England by 1 run Tuesday and become only the fourth team in history to win a cricket test after being forced to follow-on.
On a day of constant twists and turns, 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 and the lower-order exposed.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes then made 35, facing down the New Zealand attack and shepherding the tailenders to guide England within sight of victory. But in another twist, Foakes was out with seven runs still needed.
Last man James Anderson clubbed a four down the ground which left England two runs from a match and series victory and the crowd holding its collective breath. Then in the last, dramatic moment, Anderson was caught down the leg side by a diving Tom Blundell from the bowling of Neil Wagner.
In a defining comeback for Wagner and his short-pitch bowling, he took 4-62, dismissed Root and Stokes and held three catches on the final day to seal New Zealand’s narrowest test win.
England twice and India once are the only other teams to have won a test after having to follow. The last occasion was in 2001 when India beat Australia by 171 runs at Eden Gardens.
The result also ended England’s run of six consecutive test wins and leveled the two-match series, allowing New Zealand to avoid its first defeat in a home series since 2017. The New Zealanders were heavily beaten in the first test and were again well behind in the game after the first innings in Wellington.
“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 first test we didn’t get on the right side of it and they played well. I thought they played really well in the first innings here in really tough conditions but we just found a way of contributing and get in a good position and (this) is a special one.”
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 of an extended first session, the equilibrium of the match was disturbed. England lost nightwatchman Ollie Robinson, opener Ben Duckett then Ollie Pope and Harry Brook to consecutive deliveries to slip to 80-5 with 178 still needed.
Brook’s wicket was crucial after he made 186 in the first innings for his fourth century in five tests. Root was the guilty party in his dismissal Tuesday, taking a hazardous single and running out Brook before he’d faced a ball.
Root and Stokes seemed to have repaired the England innings. Root was the aggressor, reaching his 57th test half century from only 51 balls, while Stokes seemed restricted by an injury to his left knee and made his 33 from 116 balls.
But Wagner’s double blow to dismiss them both in consecutive overs likely was the turning point of the match. 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. We’ve got a few months off before the Ashes (series against Australia) starts and hopefully we can get back to doing what we love doing.”