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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Ish Sodhi survives tense finish to win series for New Zealand

New Zealand 278 and 256 for 8 (Latham 83, Sodhi 56*) drew with England 307 and 352 for 9 dec (Vince 76, Stoneman 60, Root 54, de Grandhomme 4-94)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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We couldn't have tried much more - Root

The England captain reflects on the drawn Test in Christchurch, the lost series in New Zealand, and the poor results during the winter tours

In scenes of umbrella-gnawing tension, New Zealand dug deep in adversity to cling on for a draw in the second Test at Christchurch's bucolic Hagley Oval, and thus secured their first series win over England since 1999, and their first at home since 1983-84.

They were forced to do so the hard way - with fielders camped around the bat for the entirety of the final session, and having endured a stunningly terrible start to the day's play, when two wickets fell to Stuart Broad's first two deliveries, including their likeliest final-day field marshall, Kane Williamson, for a first-ball duck.

But thereafter, New Zealand found enough heroes to fill the gaps in their ranks - not least among them, Tom Latham, whose 207-ball 83 was the mainstay of the first two sessions, and Colin de Grandhomme, whose My Way 45 may have ended in a potentially disastrous brain-fade, but nevertheless completed a hugely impressive all-round contest.

But in the final analysis, it was left to a brilliantly gritty eighth-wicket stand of 37 runs in 31.2 overs between Ish Sodhi - whose antepenultimate-over smash through midwicket for four brought up a richly deserved fifty after he had spent 31 deliveries on 48 - and Neil Wagner, who was eventually caught off an inside edge off the final ball of the match for 7 from 103 balls, having scarcely glanced in any direction except straight back down the wicket.

Throughout the final session, England had believed they were in a race against the setting sun, with the vagaries of the South Island's autumnal weather likely to force a stoppage for bad light at any moment. But the skies remained clear as the shadows lengthened, until at 6.02pm, with Tim Southee marching out to replace the crestfallen Wagner, Joe Root was forced to admit defeat as the umpires finally deemed the light to be unacceptable. England had pushed to the bitter end of a bitterly disappointing winter, but their quest for a first overseas victory since October 2016 will now be extended at least until the tour of Sri Lanka in six months' time.

Throughout a gripping final day, England were given plenty reasons to believe that they were firmly on course for a first win in seven attempts this winter - particularly when Broad lured Jeet Raval into a limp leg-side flick to square leg before blasting Williamson from the crease with a brute of a lifter that grazed his splice on the way through to the keeper.

New Zealand lost two more key wickets in a one-sided first session, including a maiden Test scalp for the left-arm spinner, Jack Leach, and went to tea six-down with their series hopes firmly on the line.

But the decisive moment of the match seemed, surely, to have arrived after 45 minutes of impulse-denying attrition in a tense evening session. After living dangerously in the early stages of his innings, particularly against the spin of Leach, de Grandhomme had settled back into a more traditional rearguard, dutifully falling in behind the line to see off England's second new ball and extend his seventh-wicket stand with Sodhi into a 27th over.

But he couldn't entirely supress his belligerent instincts, and having twice biffed Broad short balls over the leg-side for four, he tried the same trick one over later, as the extra pace of Mark Wood was brought back into the fray. His second-ball slap ballooned off a top-edge into the hands of Leach at fine leg, and at 219 for 7 with the light still holding firm, England had the opening for which they had been striving.

It was the second time in the innings that Wood's muscular quick bowling had ram-raided a wicket for England - earlier in the day, he had bluffed BJ Watling with the same around-the-wicket line, suckering the batsman with a surprise fuller ball as he turned his stance inside-out in full anticipation of a bouncer.

Watling's limp reflexive flick had lobbed to James Anderson at short backward square, to break another half-formed stand of 44 in 20 overs with New Zealand's most fluent barnacle of the final day, Latham. And Latham too, for all his determination, ultimately gave his innings away when well set, as he took on the sweep with Leach finding some purchase out of the rough, and top-edged to a diving James Vince at backward square leg.

Sodhi, however, was not about to give up the ghost as tamely as his senior colleagues. He'd had his own moment of good fortune right at the top of his innings, when on 0, he stabbed Leach firmly through the grasp of Mark Stoneman at silly point, and he was later smashed a painful blow on the forearm as he ducked into a Broad bouncer.

But in between whiles, Sodhi resolved to stand his ground against everything that England could fling at him. Only once before in his Test career, against Pakistan in 2014, had he batted for as many as 100 deliveries in a single innings, and as England's desperation mounted, so his luck and fortitude rose to meet the needs of the hour.

Wood, once again, seemed the likeliest to dynamite him from the crease - twice in the final hour, with close catchers stationed like the points on a nautical compass, he slammed fierce lifters into Sodhi's gloves that ballooned to safety through backward point. Broad then lured him into a sliced drive that flew to safety over the cordon and, in his next over, he crashed a sharp lifter into his gloves and inches out of the reach of gully. And before he had added to his 48 runs, Stoneman - on his knees as the straighter of two short legs - rose too early to grab another splice-rattler that plopped inches short of his grasp.

But if Sodhi was living dangerously, then the left-handed Wagner, better orientated to counter the fast bowler's aggressive angles, was only too happy to sink deeper into his trench with every delivery. He batted with the same combative attitude that he has always brought to his bowling, never afraid to stretch onto the front foot to counter anything full and straight, but only too happy to drop his gloves and put his body on the line to see off the shorter balls.

As a consequence, Wagner produced just four scoring shots in the course of his 103-ball innings - a trio of singles and a deflection for four through fine leg off Broad. Not even the lollipop legspin of Dawid Malan could tempt him into an indiscretion, as he pressed his weight forward to repel all comers, and even when Root eventually did him on the inside edge, he retained enough presence of mind to call for the review. In the time it took for Tim Southee to emerge from the pavilion - after two days on his sickbed, he was not in the ideal frame of mind for a rearguard - the umpires got together to decide enough was enough.

The scenes at the close were reminiscent of England's own great escape at Auckland on the 2012-13 tour, when Matt Prior and Monty Panesar had repelled everything that New Zealand could throw at them. And England tried it all, in particular during a four-wicket morning session that seemed to have unlocked the contest.

In that brief period of dominance, Leach bagged Ross Taylor on the sweep for a notable maiden Test wicket, before Anderson suckered Henry Nicholls with an outswinger, en route to overhauling Courtney Walsh as the most over-worked fast bowler in Test history. No doubt, he was feeling every one of those 30,074 deliveries by the close.

New Zealand 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st42JA RavalTWM Latham
2nd0KS WilliamsonTWM Latham
3rd24LRPL TaylorTWM Latham
4th25TWM LathamHM Nicholls
5th44BJ WatlingTWM Latham
6th27C de GrandhommeTWM Latham
7th57C de GrandhommeIS Sodhi
8th37N WagnerIS Sodhi
9th0TG SoutheeIS Sodhi