Feb 28, 2023, 20:27 IST

The Beauty of Test Cricket is alive and well as New Zealand does the unthinkable


New Zealand on Monday scripted history when they came back from behind to win the 2nd test. The final day at Basin Reserve at Wellington was nothing short of a dramatic spectacle. The match had its own ebbs and flows as the home team who had been down and out made a stirring comeback.

The story so far –

England came into the final day with all the confidence in the world. There was no reason why they wouldn’t be confident. This was after all the same team that has created a buzz world wide by playing a different brand of cricket in recent times. Baz-Ball had taken every team’s hope of a win out of equation. New Zealand themselves had been at the receiving end of a 3-0 drubbing.

Southee and his men carve out history-

Tim Southee took the captaincy mantle from Kane Williamson. The 32 year old number 3 batter had led the kiwis to a World Test Championship title win. England began the day at 48/1 and the Kiwis knew they had to fight till the end. That’s whet Southee and his men did.

England themselves have won a test match after being asked to follow-on twice. Both the times it was against Australia. The first time in 1894 when England beat Australia by 10 runs, while the 2nd time was in the famous Ian Botham test. The match at Headingley saw Ian Botham use his bat as a swathe sword and put the Australians down to the ground and win the game by 18 runs.

India’s epic 2001 win –

The 3rd instance happened just two decades ago, when India won the game at Kolkata against all odds. Australia had scored 445 in their 1st innings with Steve Waugh scoring a century and Harbhajan taking India’s 1st test hattrick. India were all out for 171 in their first innings with VVS Laxman scoring 59.

The Indian team management decided to promote Laxman to 3 as he scored an imperious 281 along with Dravid who scored 180. Chasing 384 to win on the final day post lunch, the Australians were bundled out in less than 2 sessions. India won the tess by 171 runs and stopped Australia from winning a series in India and an 17th overall test win.

Drama filled final day begins with NZ on top–

Starting the day at 48/1, England lost Ollie Robinson for 2 caught by Bracewell off Southee. Opener Ben Duckett was out next when he was caught behind off Matt Henry for 33. Ollie Pope then was out for 14 when he was caught by Latham off Wagner. The morning turned more sour for England as they lost Harry Brook for a duck. The talented youngster was out without facing a ball as a mix up cost him his wicket to leave England at 80/5.

Root and Stokes dig England out of a hole –

With the fall of Brook, England still needed 178 runs. In walked captain Ben Stokes as he went on to add 121 runs for the 6th wicket with Root. For the first time in a while, test cricket seemed to win as those runs came in 35.4 overs. Stokes played 116 balls for his 33 runs which was against his grain.

Wagner hesitates a collapse –

Neil Wagner got the wicket of Ben Stokes to bring the kiwis back into the game. The left arm quick then got the big fish when he had Joe Root out for 95 off 113 balls with 8 fours and 3 sixes. Matt Henry then struck when he had Stuart Broad out for 11 caught by Wagner and England still needed 43.

Foakes and Leach take the English closer –

England needed a miracle and they turned to Jack Leach to stitch a stand with Foakes. The English wicket keeper was doing everything to farm the strike and shield Leach. The kiwis sensing a win were getting desperate as they bowled short, wide and started to leak runs. Foakes and Leach added 36 runs for the 9th wicket as the stand came in just over 63 balls.

Wagner and Southee break England hearts –

With England needing 7 to win, still 2 wickets left, the favorites were now the English. Neil Wagner who had taken 3 wickets though did well to judge the catch of Ben Foakes off Southee for 35.

Anderson struck a four as the runs now needed were 2 to win and there was a tantalizing end of the game on the cards. Anderson was doing everything to look away. Wagner came steaming in, instead of a short ball, it was a ball down the leg which rung the death knell for the English. Tom Blundell who has given it all flung himself to pouch the catch and the umpire’s fingers went up as the Kiwis bundled in to celebrate a famous win.

Deja-vu for Anderson –

Nearly 9 years ago, Leeds was the venue when Shaminda Eranga of Sri Lanka bowled a short ball to Anderson. England had to survive just 1 ball and Sri Lanka one wicket to complete a famous win. Anderson had batted 54 balls for his zero, but the 55th ball was the last of the game. Rangana Herath took the catch as Angelo Mathews had become the 1st test captain from Sri Lanka to beat England in England.

Test cricket you beauty –

When the final wicket fell, there was a huge pandemonium. The phones went blazing as then notifications popped up that the Kiwis had done the unthinkable. Only for the 4th time in the annals of test cricket, have we seen such a reversal of results. England had done it, India had done it.

It was now the chance for Kiwis to revel in the steady sunshine of wellington. As Anderson sank to his knees, there was a rise on the horizon. The rise was of test cricket and the beauty that it had put out for the fans. Test Cricket may never see such a day again, but one thing is for sure, the cricket purists will be beaming at the Shakespeare like drama they had seen unfold in front of their own eyes.