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Neil Wagner shines for New Zealand as the pacer powers the black caps to a historic win

By Real11 - Feb 28 2023 218 Views
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Neil Wagner powers New Zealand to an incredible one run win

New Zealand made a dramatic comeback led by Neil Wagner in Basin Reserve as they became only the third team (after England and India) to pull off a test victory after following on. Also, it was just the fourth instance of such an occurrence in 2494 Tests and 146 years of Test Cricket, as the black caps completed a historic one run win- a result margin achieved only for the second time in Test history. With this win the 2 match series ended at 1-1, and NZ’s impressive home record is still intact. 

Despite losing four wickets inside the first hour of the morning session, Joe Root put England well and truly into the game. He alongside skipper Stokes added 121 runs for the sixth wicket to keep the visitors into the game. However, Wagner had other plans. The speedster first dismissed struggling Stokes and then removed Root to expose the tail and leave them to chase the remaining 56 runs. 

This was Wagner’s best spell of the series. In each of the innings preceding it, England batters have taken the attack to the left seamer and scored at least five an over. In the second innings at Bay Oval, he went at 8.50. But the day five variable bounce in Basin Reserve worked to the quickie’s advantage. First, he pounced on a hobbling Stokes with a well directed bouncer. The England skipper moved his front foot out and went for the pull but the hurt back knee meant he had no control over his shot and he ended up mistiming it to Tom Latham at square leg. Wagner’s next victim was the well set Root. The former skipper went for a pull against a length ball that came up to his midriff, but he mistimed the shot and departed for 95 after handing Micheal Bracewell at midwicket a simple catch. 

As England’s tail walked out, the hosts' ploy was straightforward. Matt Henry and Wagner terrorised them through a bouncer barrage. Broad fought fire with fire and he attempted to go after the short pitched stuff each time. Wagner built up the pressure with short balls at one end, and Henry reaped the rewards as Broad tried a ramp shot against a well directed bouncer only to find Wagner at third man. With that, England lost their eighth wicket and the hosts were firm favourites to achieve the unthinkable. 

Jack Leach’s resolve to stay put at one end was being tested with Henry firing short balls. Wagner nearly removed Foakes when the latter took on the bouncer and played a pull short, but Bracewell was late to pick the ball late at deep square leg and ended up out of position. Foakes got a boundary off that ball to take the target down to 20s. A shift in momentum at this stage was palpable. Foakes, now brimming with confidence, dispatched a Wagner short ball down the ground with authority for a four and then hit one from outside the off stump past mid wicket. 

In desperation for one more breakthrough, Southee and Wagner bowled short balls well over the batter’s helmet that called wides to take two more runs off the target. As the pressure was mounting on the Kiwis, they wasted a review for a caught-behind appeal against the number 10. Just as when the game looked like slipping away from NZ’s hands, Southee came back into the attack to take the prized wicket of Foakes, who top edged one to Wagner at fine leg. With seven runs required and England down to their final wicket pair, the match was heading towards a late dramatic finish. 

More drama followed when Leach top edged and the ball went high but fell between two converging fielders. Anderson stepped out, swung wildly and connected to deposit the ball to midwicket fence the very next ball. England came within touching distance of winning the game and only 2 runs were required for them to become the first team since 2017 to clinch a Test series in New Zealand. The topsy-turvy encounter came to an end when Anderson nicked a ball from Wagner on the leg side and Blundell bagged a diving catch to bring the series to a fitting end. 

Earlier in the day, Root led England’s chase as NZ started the day on the front foot. They claimed four wickets in the first hour, and Southee- who himself bought a fiery spell- brought his wicketkeeper up to all the seamers and got them to pull their lengths back avoiding the opposition batters to hit through the line. From 80-5, Root and Stokes revived Eng’s innings and quickly put their side on top in the run chase. Stokes, who suffered a knee injury, played second fiddle to a free flowing Root, who went into the Lunch break on 74. England at that stage looked very much in command. New Zealand, however, turned the game on its head in a single session. 

Brief Scores: England 435/8 decl. (Harry Brook 186, Joe Root 153*; Matt Henry 4-100, Michael Bracewell 2-54) & 256 (Joe Root 95, Ben Foakes 35; Neil Wagner 4-62, Tim Southee 3-45) lost to New Zealand 209 (Tim Southee 73, Tom Blundell 38; Stuart Broad 4-61, James Anderson 3-37) & 483 (Kane Williamson 132, Tom Blundell 90; Jack Leach 5-157) by 1 run

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