Drawn second Test hands New Zealand 1-0 series win over England

Ali Martin at Seddon Park
The Guardian
<span>Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

The rains began in Hamilton at 1.55pm and by 3.53pm the umpires had seen enough. The second Test between New Zealand and England was called off as a draw and with it the hosts had secured a 1-0 series win - their fifth in a row at home.

That result had looked inevitable regardless as, on a heartbreaking pitch that barely looked used even by the fifth day, New Zealand had moved to 241 for two in their second innings - a lead of 140 runs - and the chances of a collapse looking minimal.

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Just five overs had been bowled after lunch but it was enough time for both Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to complete unbeaten centuries before they depart on Saturday for a three-Test tour of Australia, reaching 104 and 105 respectively.

Williamson, resuming on 96 after the interval, might have been run out when chasing a risky second only for Sam Curran to miss with his shy at the stumps, before sweeping a four to fine leg off Joe Root’s bowling made it Test century No 21.

Taylor, with the rain already starting to spit in the England captain’s next over, then when four, four, six with a succession of swept slogs to register his 19th hundred. Two balls later and the players were off, seeking shelter in the pavilion as a good-natured series decided by New Zealand’s innings-victory in Mount Maunganui ended with handshakes.

For Root’s tourists, it was one where lessons were learned too late. The captain’s double-century shored up his own position amid some rising debate, Rory Burns made 101, while there were encouraging performances for Ollie Pope, 74, and Chris Woakes who claimed four wickets for 95 on his return to the side.

But even on the final morning, when New Zealand resumed on 96 for two, there was a reminder of England’s struggles with the Kookaburra ball in hand across the two matches and a couple moments that summed up their catching when Williamson somehow enjoyed lives on 39 and 62.

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The first came in the fourth over of the day when Ben Stokes, the man to drop BJ Watling on 31 en route to a double century in the first Test, fired one into the New Zealand captain’s ribs and found the glove, only for Pope to snatch at a seemingly regulation diving catch down leg.

Pope was only behind the stumps in this second Test due to Jos Buttler’s back injury and though he has been a wicketkeeper since school days, his lack of first-class experience - and thus a fully honed technique - means his back-up status on tour is one that England will likely park come their next series in South Africa.

Williamson’s next reprieve probably came too late for the sporting blooper DVDs on sale this Christmas but it was quite something. Jofra Archer, trying anything to take just a third wicket in the series, had sent down a knuckle-ball with no-front arm in delivery that fooled Williamson and plopped a simple catch to short mid-wicket.

But while Archer was celebrating this apparent breakthrough with a scream, Joe Denly was looking down at the ball on the grass in front of him. Somehow, despite it being an easier chance than most warm-up drills before the start of play, he had fumbled at knee-height and no one in the ground could quite believe it.

Williamson and Taylor will probably rank these centuries way down the list when they recall their achievements in years to come (notwithstanding the latter passing 7,000 Test runs). For the sparse crowd that pitched up on the final day, the “I was there” moment probably came courtesy of Denly’s butter fingers.

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