New Zealand 427 for 8 dec. (Nicholls 145*, Williamson 102) beat England 58 (Boult 6-32, Southee 4-25) and 320 (Stokes 66, Stoneman 52) by an innings and 49 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
March 26, 2018, Auckland. England lost their seventh wicket, Ben Stokes, to the last ball of the penultimate session. Caught Southee, bowled Wagner. But New Zealand triumphed this time, overcoming two days of play lost to rain and another dogged England rearguard to complete an innings win under lights at Eden Park.
Stokes and Chris Woakes survived close to the entirety of the second session to provide England with an opportunity to salvage an incredible draw, a distant dream when they were dismantled for 58, their sixth-lowest Test score, on the first day. On the stroke of another break though, for the third successive session, England lost a vital wicket as Stokes top-edged an attempted cut to backward point off Wagner.
New Zealand chipped away at England’s middle order in the afternoon, but lacked the penetration in the second session. Stokes and Woakes cut England’s deficit from 152 to 69 and, more importantly, faced a combined 185 balls. The Barmy Army found their voice, but then the match turned again before dinner.
Early in his innings, Woakes was surprisingly satisfied with chasing wide deliveries in the search for quick runs. If New Zealand created a chance or the ball beat the bat, Woakes subsequently tightened his technique, playing close to his body.
With the lower order, Woakes was stolid, taking the majority of the strike and latching onto scoring opportunities to reduce the deficit. There wasn’t much he could do to avoid his dismissal, though, fending a brute of a bouncer from Wagner to short leg.
Stokes was more selective, strategically picking lengths to score against. Apart from cross-batted strokes against Wagner’s short-ball strategy, he played largely with the full face, driving straight and through cover – 32 of his 66 runs, close to 50%, came in these regions. After reaching his fifty however, off his 128th delivery, Stokes appeared fatigued, losing his energy about as quickly as Auckland was losing natural light, resulting in an uncharacteristically loose shot.
It was a much better batting performance from England, aided by improved underfoot conditions. Fuller-length deliveries were easily negotiated with the old pink ball not swinging, and the shorter ones were more comfortable to handle too, a slow fifth-day pitch allowing batsmen the time to adjust.
Jonny Bairstow contributed a 72-ball 26, but was reprieved twice: a thick inside edge down leg not collected by BJ Watling, diving to his left, and then a drop by Trent Boult, at mid-on, off a long-hop from legspinner Todd Astle who was in his first spell of the Test. In a bizarre period of play, Bairstow pulled another long-hop, 11 balls later, to midwicket, where Kane Williamson leapt to his right to take his second terrific catch of the match. Astle eventually finished with 3 for 39, the best returns of the second innings.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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