Tim Southee: 'Scrappy Kiwis' deserve plaudits for scripting improbable Test victory over England
Just before lunch on day three at Wellington's Basin Reserve, the Black Caps were down and out - bowled out for 209 with a first-innings deficit of 226. They were immediately asked to follow-on by England skipper Ben Stokes, but proceeded to drag themselves back from the brink to secure a jaw-dropping one-run victory deep on day five. Having made 483 in their second attempt they set the tourists 258 to win and bowled them out in heart-pounding drama for 256. In doing so, Southee became just the fourth man in Test history to lead a side to victory after following on. "I imagine it'll be a Test match that's talked about for a long time," was his modest assessment. "Only a handful of sides have come back from the follow-on to win. Once it digests, the guys will soak it up. "The guys have shown great character in the last few days. They stayed calm. If we'd walked off and shaken hands and it wasn't good enough, it wasn't good enough. "But the openers stood up in the second innings, so did Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson, Tom Blundell…it was a typical scrapping Kiwi effort." While the turnaround would not have been possible without Williamson's headliner knock of 132, for which he was named player of the match, nobody fought harder when the result was on the line than Neil Wagner. The 36-year-old left-arm quick had a poor game in the first Test but roared back like a champion. He dismissed Ben Stokes and Joe Root in the space of four balls to end what looked a winning stand from the middle-order pair and also caught Ben Foakes at fine-leg with seven runs needed. And it was Wagner who finished things off, slanting one into James Anderson's pads and taking a feather off the bat on the way through to the wicketkeeper. "It says everything about him as a character and a cricketer. He doesn't give up," Southee said. "It's in his DNA to keep giving to this team and we saw that and how valuable he can be. "We trusted his best method and he was able to come in and change the game in this last session, like he has done for a long period of time, by doing that. "For him to come in and change the game there when it looked like Ben and Joe had almost taken it away from us was a massive part of this game and shows you the ticker that Neil's got."
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