New Zealand’s historic one-run win over England in one of the all-time greatest finishes in Test cricket on Tuesday will help the reigning world champion stop its drift away from the longest format of the game, said the chief architect of the heist, Kane Williamson.
Two years after they won the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship beating India at Southampton, the Blackcaps have struggled to cope with the rigours of the longest format and are currently out of contention for a place in the 2021-23 WTC final cycle.
Once considered invincible at home, New Zealand hit the nadir, losing the first Test to Ben Stakes’ side by 267 runs. It has slipped to eighth in the WTC standings, with Bangladesh the only side below them.
The one-run win on Tuesday could become the motivation for the Blackcaps to regain its pride of place.
“A fantastic game of cricket to be a part of and, for us as a team, we’ve been fighting away in the Test format for a while so it’s nice to get across the line on this one,” said Williamson in the post-match presentation.
Following-on after conceding a 226-run lead in the second and final Test at Basin Reserve, the former skipper batted more than seven hours in his knock of 132 to take them 483.
England, who had pulled off its highest successful run chase of 378 in Tests to beat India at the Edgbaston last year, fell one run short chasing 258.
It was New Zealand left-arm pacer Neil Wagner (4/62) who did the star act when he dismissed England’s last man James Anderson, caught down the leg.
Williamson, who notched his 26th Test century to become the highest Kiwi run-getter in the the longest format eclipsing Ross Taylor, was adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’.
“Doesn’t quite feel right to be standing here, after a game of cricket like that and the contributions we’ve seen from both teams throughout,” Williamson, who relinquished captaincy after being at the helm for six years, said.
“This England team is playing incredible cricket at the moment and we’re up against it, coming into this game. So, to fight away and compete and ultimately just get across the line is a really nice feeling.” This is only the fourth time in Test history a side has won after following-on. The 2001 Eden Test in Kolkata was the last instance when India had secured an astonishing 171-run win over Australia after being forced to follow-on.
“Right up there, only a handful of sides have come back from the follow-on to win. Once it digests, the guys will soak it up,” said NZ skipper Tim Southee, who took over the captaincy from Williamson in December last year.
“The character they’ve shown in the last few days. The guys were calm, if we’d walked off and shaken hands and it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t good enough.
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“We couldn’t read too much into a day-night Test, the first two days here England were class, the openers stood up in the second innings, but Daryl, Kane, Tom Blundell... typical Kiwi scrapping effort.
“Neil’s had a massive impact from trusting his best method, it came on this time. It’s great for Test cricket, the way England are playing, and it’s good for Test cricket going forward,” Southee added.
England skipper Ben Stokes said the incredible win by New Zealand showed what Test cricket is all about.
“The emotions we were going through and the Kiwi boys as well. Everyone’s got their money’s worth today. Disappointing to end on a loss but four out of five away from home is something we will take great pride in. A few months off and get back to what we love doing,” he said.
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