Eighth-wicket pair bats out 31.2 overs to help New Zealand secure a draw and clinch the series 1-0.
Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner emerged as the unlikely batting heroes for New Zealand as they hung on to bat out the fifth day of the second and final Test in Christchurch against England, getting to 256/8 in their chase of 382 to clinch the series 1-0.
Sodhi came out to bat with New Zealand at 162/6 in the 68th over of the innings, with over 50 overs left to the close. Sodhi and Colin de Grandhomme batted through some part of those 50 overs before de Grandhomme fell for 45.
Sodhi and Wagner played on for the remainder of the day, doing brilliantly to keep the England bowlers at bay for 31.2 overs. They added 37 runs together, but more crucially, protected their wickets.
At the fag end of the day, with three balls left, Joe Root had Wagner caught at silly point off the bat and pad. But the light had deteriorated far too much by then for the last two balls to be bowled.
Prior to that, Root tried everything he could, shuffling his bowlers – pacers and spinners – around and even placing himself at a close-in position, but to no avail. Sodhi ended with an unbeaten 56, which scored over 168 balls. Wagner, at the other end, dead batted pretty much everything thrown at him to score 7 from 103 balls.
The day began with New Zealand looking for 340 runs and England chasing 10 wickets. Stuart Broad gave the visiting side the perfect start, sending back Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson off the first two balls of the day.
Raval had gutsed his way to 17 runs from 59 balls on the fourth day, but flicked a leg-stump half-volley to Mark Stoneman at mid-wicket as soon as the action began. Barely had the celebrations died down that England got their second when Williamson nicked behind to fall for a first-ball duck, and England had two of their 10 in next to no time.
Broad almost had his third when he induced the edge from Ross Taylor, but a diving James Vince couldn’t hold on in the slips. Taylor (13) fell soon enough as Jack Leach, the debutant left-arm spinner, got his maiden Test wicket when he got the batsman to top edge a sweep to Alastair Cook at square-leg.
Tom Latham, the other overnight batsman, looked solid. However, the damage continued at the other end as James Anderson found the edge from Henry Nicholls (13) and Cook held on in the slips. New Zealand had lost four wickets in the first hour to slip to 91/4 and it was all England at that point.
Latham got to a good half-century and kept the New Zealand fight going after lunch but BJ Watling, the top scorer from the first innings, became fifth man out for 19 when he was caught at backward square-leg by Anderson off Mark Wood to end the partnership at 44 runs.
The big wicket came in the 68th over of the innings when Latham, who had had a few fortuitous moments, failed to keep a sweep off Leach down and Vince took a good catch running in at square-leg. Leach had his second, and New Zealand were six down for 162 with Latham gone for 83 after batting over four-and-a-half hours.
That left de Grandhomme, fresh from a 72 in the first innings, and Sodhi to keep New Zealand going.
The two did exceedingly well and batting patiently. De Grandhomme, especially, latched on to the loose ones and executed some mighty pulls. However, there was always the feeling that one wicket would open the door for England.
That wicket came after the partnership had lasted more than 25 overs and added 57 to the total, when Wood came into the attack and de Grandhomme couldn’t keep his pull down. He holed out to Leach at fine-leg for 45.
That was in the 94th over. Thereafter, England tried seven different bowlers, including Root himself and Dawid Malan, but there just wasn’t a way past Sodhi and Wagner. Not that there weren’t plenty of oohs and aahs with the ball going off edge and gloves to the slips, but nothing went to hand.
In the end, the two tail-enders did enough to secure the result New Zealand wanted – a draw, and that gave them their first series win over England since 1999, when they won 2-1 away. Tim Southee was named the Player of the Match for his all-round show - 6/62 in the England first innings and 50 with the bat in the first New Zealand innings. Trent Boult, meanwhile, was named Player of the Series for his 15 wickets across the two Tests.
From England’s point of view, their unsuccessful away season ended with another defeat. Since beating Bangladesh in the first of two Tests in Chittagong in October 2016, they lost 10 Tests and drew three on the road, in between beating South Africa 3-1 and Windies 2-1 at home.
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