Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters/AFP
- Mission Improbable beating England by one run in second test.
- NZ’s hopes faded as 121-run cut deficit to 57 runs with five wickets.
- Wagner finished with 4-62 in the fourth innings.
Neil Wagner took four wickets and held two crucial catches as New Zealand pulled off a “Mission Improbable” by beating England by one run in the second Test on a nerve-jangling day five after being made to follow on.
It was only the fourth win in the history of Test cricket by a team asked to follow on, and the second time a team had won a Test by a single run after West Indies beat Australia by the margin in Adelaide in 1993.
Having set England 258 to win, New Zealand’s hopes had faded as Joe Root (95) and Ben Stokes (33) produced a 121-run stand to cut the deficit to 57 runs with five wickets in hand on a sunny Tuesday afternoon at the Basin Reserve.
Enter Wagner, who had both out slogging then nervelessly held catches in the deep to help remove Stuart Broad (11) and wicket-keeper Ben Foakes for 35.
Foakes’s wicket left tailenders Jack Leach and James Anderson needing seven runs for victory, and Anderson smacked a boundary off Wagner to trim the margin to two runs.
Wagner came again and had Anderson caught down the leg side for four to trigger jubilation among the New Zealand players and fans.
“It’s a special one this and we’ll celebrate it well,” said Wagner, who finished with 4-62 in the fourth innings.
“It’s an amazing achievement and obviously everybody contributed, so hats off to everyone. That’s what this team’s about, just keep playing.
“That’s just the characteristic of this team, we keep loving to fight for each other.”
The two-match series ended in a 1-1 draw, with England having won the first test in Mount Maunganui by 267 runs.
Kane Williamson was named Man of the Match, having scored a brilliant 132 in New Zealand’s second innings as the hosts put on 483 after England captain Ben Stokes enforced the follow-on.
“That game as a whole, in terms of what Test cricket’s about, was just incredible,” said Stokes.
“‘Wags’ came on and blew the game open for them. Sometimes things don’t happen the way you want them to but it was a good one, wasn’t it?”
The tourists’ brilliant rookie batsman Harry Brook was named Man of the Series.
England will wonder what might have been, after resuming on 48 for one in the morning.
Though Root and Stokes were culpable in their dismissals, the pair deserved enormous credit for steadying the chase after four wickets fell quickly.
Stokes threw the bat at a Wagner bouncer and top-edged to square leg where a running Tom Latham took the catch.
Root, who had batted beautifully in a 113-ball knock, also attacked Wagner, sending a miscued pull to Michael Bracewell at mid-wicket.
Broad tried to slog his team over the line but ramped Matt Henry straight to Wagner at third man to be out for 11.
Foakes and Leach carried England to within seven runs but Foakes pulled captain Tim Southee to fine leg where a scrambling Wagner took a low catch, leaving the tailenders exposed.
“Only a handful of sides have been asked to follow on and come back to win so I think it’s a pretty special one,” said Southee. “I guess to be on the back foot after two days and the character being shown in the last three days … has been very impressive.”