England lost one of the most incredible Tests of all time in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday morning when Jimmy Anderson was dismissed with just two runs needed for victory.
In incredible scenes at Basin Reserve, the latest pairing of Anderson and Jack Leach had brought England to the brink of success that would have been as extraordinary as the one Ben Stokes and Jack Leach won for England at Headingley four years ago.
But with the necessary two, Anderson, who had broken a four in Neil Wagner’s previous over, received the slightest of tickles to his left arm leg in the safe hands of Tom Blundell to give New Zealand victory, to coin a phrase, by the tiniest of margins.
There was also controversy that Wagner’s earlier ball had come perilously close to being called wide, but umpires Chris Gaffaney and Rod Tucker gave it the benefit of the slightest doubt.
Only once in Test history has a team won a Test by one run before and this was only the fourth time that a team had won in Test cricket after following on. It was also the first time England had lost after asking someone to follow.
New Zealand celebrate the winning moment as James Anderson is caught on the side of the leg.
Joe Root drops his bat in disgust after dodging a jerk from Neil Wagner to come up short of a century
Ben Stokes walks away after he was also caught bowling at Wagner
It is a bitter disappointment for England, but when the dust settles they will know that they have played a full part in a remarkable game in keeping with their stated aim of trying to make Test cricket as entertaining as possible.
This was definitely that. After five exciting days to the upside, England’s bottom pair needed to score seven runs to give England a 2–0 series win and their seventh successive Test win, their best run for nearly 20 years.
It looked like they would make it as Anderson crushed Wagner to the limit, but with the 40-year-old set to score the winning runs in a Test match for the first time, Wagner and New Zealand, often the bridesmaids, had a chance. . last word
England will criticize themselves for failing to win five in five overseas tests this winter and sealing their seventh successive win after Joe Root and Stokes put them within sight of the finish line with a partnership of 121.
The England captain and his predecessor found England in crisis having lost four wickets in a nightmarish first hour of the final day, culminating in Harry Brook being bowled out by Root without even facing a ball.
Root kept his head in their heads after that moment of madness, but he batted so well to take England to 57 runs from victory with Stokes that English nerves had begun to settle and it seemed certain that England would complete another extraordinary victory.
But then Stokes, who had clearly been struggling with his chronic left knee injury, took an ugly hand at Neil Wagner and was caught mid-wicket to undo all the good work and discipline he had shown in providing the perfect support. to root.
England were still favourites, while Root, batting sublimely again after his unbeaten 153 in the first innings, was at the crease but also handed over his wicket at 95 trying to get a ball from Wagner that wasn’t short enough. and throwing in half. shutter.
Stuart Broad’s attempt to crush England to victory was quickly over, but Ben Foakes was exceptional in ordering the tail with Leach in scenes reminiscent of the famous battle between Stokes and Leach against Australia at Headingley four years ago.
Foakes made 35 and brought England within seven of their goal, but he too fell trying to get Southee’s short ball out.
A moment of terror saw Harry Brook run off without facing a ball after a reckless call from Root
Ollie Pope was caught by Tom Latham after an unconvincing 14-year stay in Wellington
Earlier England, who have managed an impressive six runs since Stokes joined Brendon McCullum early last summer, looked uncharacteristically nervous and indecisive in their 258 quest for victory.
They had lost Zak Crawley during the night and was quickly followed by night watchman Ollie Robinson. Ben Duckett then went down trying to cut Matt Henry and fell behind and Ollie Pope was too frantic before becoming the first wicket to fall to Wagner.
By the time Root put Tim Southee into the gully and set off for an improbable single, Michael Bracewell racing from the gully to easily remove the new English cricket superstar, England had contributed massively to their own undoing.
It looked like they would get away with it while Root and Stokes were together, but they suffered just their second loss in their remarkable transformation over the last year as New Zealand not only pulled off an incredible win, but extended their unbeaten record at home in Test Cricket to 11 series.
England, meanwhile, have yet to win a series here since 2008, but they won’t be intimidated in their quest to not only play winning cricket, but also an entertaining brand that will help save the endangered old format.
There will be those who criticize Stokes for giving New Zealand a chance when he had them shadow him, but it’s still exceptionally rare for a team to win like this – the last time it happened was in Kolkata in 2001 when Australia lost to India, and the captain of England insists that he will always take the attacking option.
Now the focus will be on the state of Stokes’ left knee ahead of the Ashes this summer and whether he will be fit enough to deliver on his £1.6m IPL deal with Chennai. But the memory of one of the most incredible Trials in history will last long for anyone who saw it.