Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor thwarted England's push for an unlikely victory in the second Test as New Zealand comfortably held on for a rain-affected draw at Hamilton to claim a 1-0 series triumph.
England needed an early cluster of wickets to give themselves a chance amid uncertainty about how much play there would be on the final day, but Ollie Pope and Joe Denly shelled simple catches to reprieve Williamson on 39 and 62.
Denly's drop was particularly galling - and led to a couple of comical reactions - before Williamson capitalised to amass his 21st Test century, while Taylor remains two behind the Kiwi captain after also going to three figures.
The pair had taken their unbroken partnership to 213 in 66 overs when the forecast rain arrived 15 minutes after lunch, with Williamson on 104 not out and Taylor unbeaten on 105, ruling out the prospect of any further play.
New Zealand, who finished on 241 for two and a lead of 140, were therefore left celebrating a fifth consecutive Test series win at home and their second over England in the space of 20 months.
England's winless run in New Zealand stretched to seven Tests, despite the best efforts of captain Joe Root, who followed up his magnificent 226 by issuing a call for one last push from his side on Tuesday.
But their catching has let them down on occasions in this series, most notably when BJ Watling compiled his epic 205 after being shelled on 31 in the innings defeat at Mount Maunganui last week, and it was a feature here.
The inclement weather and benign nature of the Seddon Park surface meant Williamson's let-offs may have been of little consequence and England can console themselves with an improved display ahead of a series against South Africa, which starts later this month and counts towards the World Test Championship.
England would have hoped for a morale-boosting success but Williamson and Taylor had taken New Zealand into safer waters the previous night, closing to within five of wiping out England's 101-run first-innings lead.
Prising apart a pair with more than 13,000 Test runs between them was the order of a blustery last morning but England, not for the first time in this series, were unable to take their opportunities.
Having added only two to his overnight 37, Williamson gloved down the leg-side off Ben Stokes but Pope, deputising for the injured Jos Buttler behind the stumps and keeping wicket for only the sixth time in his 34-match first-class career, snatched at the chance.
As if to underline the significance of the moment, Williamson pulled Stokes assertively for four through backward square to take New Zealand into the lead before he and Taylor went to their fifties with some eye-catching strokes.
However, Archer's clever thinking and some hesitancy from Williamson presented another golden opening, only for Denly to fluff his lines.
Archer had changed his action, lowering his front arm before releasing a knuckle ball, which perhaps confused Williamson enough to offer a limp prod to mid-wicket, where Denly could not hold on to a gilt-edged chance.
Archer had already been wheeling away in celebration, only to turn round and see the ball on the floor, while Stuart Broad had his hands over his mouth.
England were willing but Williamson and Taylor were untroubled thereafter, even if Stokes clattered the former on the helmet on the way through to Pope, with England chancing a review.
The more unobtrusive Taylor went to 7,000 Test runs while two pulled fours in the last three balls before lunch from Stokes, who had bowled short for most of the session, took Williamson to within one blow of his ton.
He duly got there after the resumption, with the floodlights now switched on in the gloom, with a fine sweep for his 11th four, as Root brought himself and fellow part-time spinner Denly on to bowl to spare his seamers.
Taylor moved into the 90s with a slog-sweep for his 11th four off Root before dispatching the next two deliveries over the deep mid-wicket boundary for his sixth Test ton at this venue.
It was appropriately timed as the heavens opened two balls later and a draw was announced at 3.53pm local time (2.53am GMT).
It's all over in Hamilton. The umpires have officially called time on this match, which means it is a draw and New Zealand have won the series 1-0.
Good and bad
These two have epitomised the best that cricket has to offer over the past two days:
40 - @BLACKCAPS duo Kane Williamson (21) and Ross Taylor (19) have a combined 40 Test centuries between them; however, this is the first time in their careers that they've both scored a century in the same Test innings in New Zealand. Intertwined.#NZvENGpic.twitter.com/Hiw5Y0mv7B
— OptaJason (@OptaJason) December 3, 2019
This interminable wait for the inevitable to happen is the worst.
The wait goes on
The umpires have had a look at the pitch and decided they need another half-hour to make their decision. So there will be another inspection at 4pm local time (3am GMT), at which point a definitive verdict will be reached. I hope.
The umpires will take a look at 3.15pm local time (2.15am GMT). It has stopped raining but the entire ground is drenched. I suspect the result of the inspection will be an abandonment.
Toil for the England bowlers
Assuming there's no more play, England's bowling attack will have registered:
their 2nd highest collective average in a Test series - 55.8 (behind 1989 Ashes, 57.7);
their highest collective strike rate in a series - 115.7 (ahead of 1989 Ashes, 114.5).
(Excludes one-off Tests.)
— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) December 3, 2019
Go to bed
If you're staying awake in the hope this match might go somewhere, think again.
It’s definitely raining pic.twitter.com/E0NxIckl4R
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) December 3, 2019
I've been informed that it's absolutely chucking it down in Hamilton, which suggests this might be the end, although I doubt the match will be officially called off for some time. So I'm going to do some online Christmas shopping. Will keep weather/cricket updates coming.
— The Cricketer (@TheCricketerMag) December 3, 2019
So Williamson and Taylor head off with their third-wicket partnership of 213 still unbroken. This is a record third-wicket partnership for New Zealand against England and wasn't it great how Taylor, spotting the rain was imminent, leathered his way to a hundred? The most exciting three balls of the day. Aside from the drop. Oh the drop...
It's here. The groundstaff are on, the players are off and the rain is expected to be very heavy. That could be that.
OVER 75: NZ 241/2 (Taylor 105* Williamson 104*)
Oh hello! Taylor wants top get a move on and drops down on one knee to slog-sweep Root for a fiercely struck four. And he follows up the very next ball by going even bigger with the same shot and lumping it into the stands! That takes him to 99... and he reaches his ton by repeating the same trick off the next ball. Four, six, six and that's Taylor's hundred. Three slog-sweeps and the nervous nineties are gone before they had even arrived. The groundstaff are poised...
OVER 74: NZ 225/2 (Taylor 89* Williamson 103*)
So is there time for Taylor to follow his captain's lead in reaching 100 before the rain comes? He pre-meditates a sweep for two off Denly and then slashes hard to the cover sweeper for one.
OVER 73: NZ 220/2 (Taylor 85* Williamson 103*)
Oh, Williamson should have been run out! The NZ skipper pushes the ball to mid-off and isn't even in the frame as Curran throws at the stumps. Williamson had totally given up and would have been run out by a mile. A seemingly suicidal run. Instead he picks up an overthrow and moves to 99... which then becomes 103 courtesy of a sweep which runs away fine for four. Another hundred for Kane Williamson.
OVER 72: NZ 213/2 (Taylor 85* Williamson 97*)
Denly will share duties. I suspect the England camp are well aware that it might be about to bucket down and there is little point in any of the quicks warming up. A couple of singles and that is that.
OVER 71: NZ 211/2 (Taylor 84* Williamson 96*)
Root will continue after lunch. I can't imagine there is much appetite among the fast bowlers to be thrown the ball for the rest of the day. Root is round the wicket to Taylor, who is solid in defence and plays out a maiden.
The players are on their way out. But it looks very gloomy and our man Scyld Berry has just been in touch to report that rain looks imminent. The floodlights are on.
Put us out of our misery
It's not been a great series for the spectators:
In NZ-Eng series, batsmen collectively are scoring at 44 per 100 balls; bowlers taking a wicket every 94 balls.
As it stands, this is set to be the first series (2+ matches) since 2005 in which both (a) batsmen's strike rate is under 50, & (b) bowlers' strike rate is over 90.
— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) December 3, 2019
But there may not be much more of it:
— Adam Mountford (@tmsproducer) December 3, 2019
Well, it's not hard to assess that session. A healthy 113 runs scored, no wickets lost and New Zealand have 99.99 per cent ensured they will not lose this match. How different it might have been if Pope and Denly - oh, Denly - had held those two chances. Instead Taylor and Williamson have kept scoring and tucked into runs on this dead pitch. Is there rain on the way? There doesn't appear to be any right now. But the forecast suggests it's coming.
OVER 70: NZ 211/2 (Taylor 84* Williamson 96*)
It was a fine delivery from Root to end that last over. Williamson was squared up and the ball actually clipped his front pad on the way through to the back pad. The only thing against it was height, but it was mighty close. For some reason ball tracking is not available so we shall never know if it would have gone on to clip the bails or not. On to the next over and Williamson twice swivels to pull Stokes for four through square-leg. That takes him up to 96... and it's lunch.
OVER 69: NZ 202/2 (Taylor 83* Williamson 88*)
Root decides to have a tweak before lunch. It's been 59 overs since England took a wicket. He's round the wicket to Taylor, who takes a single to become only the second New Zealand batsman to reach 7,000 Test runs. Stephen Fleming is the only other man to have done so. Root ends the over with an appeal for lbw after hitting Williamson's back pad. Oh wow, that was close. But Root opts against a review. I wonder why.
OVER 68: NZ 201/2 (Taylor 82* Williamson 88*)
We have a review! Which comes out of total desperation rather than anything else. Stokes gets one to rear up and smash into Williamson's helmet before looping into Pope's hands. Everyone knows it's nowhere near the bat, but Root decides to give the third umpire something to do, presumably out of boredom. The review confirms the ball was nowhere near bat and now we wait an age for Williamson to get a new helmet. A wide, a field change, more field changes... my God, that was a long over.
Most times involved in 150+ partnerships for @BLACKCAPS in Tests:
18 Kane Williamson
13 Martin Crowe
11 Ross Taylor
10 Brendan McCullum
Most 150+ stands for New Zealand in Tests:
6 Taylor & Williamson
4 Hastings & Congdon
4 Williamson & Latham#NZvEng
— Richard V Isaacs (@RVICricketStats) December 2, 2019
OVER 67: NZ 195/2 (Taylor 80* Williamson 87*)
Williamson adds two more to the total. And on we go towards lunch.
OVER 66: NZ 195/2 (Taylor 80* Williamson 85*)
Stokes is back into the attack to have another crack with his short stuff. Can't fault the effort of any of these bowlers today. With this game all but done, Stokes is still hitting the pitch hard... or at least attempting to do so. Short leg and leg slip in place. Williamson allows one to thud into his arm guard, before both batsmen get the pull out.
OVER 65: NZ 190/2 (Taylor 77* Williamson 84*)
Short from Curran, abandoning his usual line and length plan, but Williamson just helps it on its way for four through fine-leg.
OVER 64: NZ 186/2 (Taylor 77* Williamson 80*)
Two singles from Denly's over. That's two hours of cricket played so far today. Two dropped catches. Zero wickets.
OVER 63: NZ 184/2 (Taylor 76* Williamson 79*)
Curran returns to the attack with a modus operandi identical to that when he began at the start of the day: round the wicket and angled in, targeting the stumps. One run from the over.
OVER 62: NZ 183/2 (Taylor 75* Williamson 79*)
Williamson sweeps Denly for a couple of couples to edge ahead in the battle to be first to a hundred.
OVER 61: NZ 179/2 (Taylor 75* Williamson 75*)
This match may be going nowhere, but I am LOVING this field from Root as Woake bowls. He has positioned a semi-circle of seven close catchers all staring at Williamson, all in front of square and standing either side of the strip. Can't fault the England captain's effort.
Meanwhile, a story in three parts:
OVER 60: NZ 178/2 (Taylor 75* Williamson 74*)
Denly now decides to go round the wicket to Williamson in an attempt to locate any rough that might be outside his leg stump. A single brings the 150-run partnership. Denly is looking to give it as much rip as he can, but the pitch isn't helping and he's not the biggest turner of the ball either.
OVER 59: NZ 177/2 (Taylor 75* Williamson 73*)
Two singles from an uneventful Woakes over.
OVER 58: NZ 175/2 (Taylor 74* Williamson 72*)
He's not a bad part-time leggie is Denly. Nice loop, a little tweak, drops it in the right areas most of the time. But, yet again, he repeats his trick of conceding runs off the final ball. This time Williamson flicks him for two.
OVER 57: NZ 172/2 (Taylor 73* Williamson 70*)
A maiden from Woakes and there's now some chatter that the rain might actually miss Hamilton entirely today. There are clear blue skies out there.
OVER 56: NZ 172/2 (Taylor 73* Williamson 70*)
Denly's attempting to give the ball plenty of air in the hope of luring the batsmen into something foolish but - just as he did last over - he ends the over by dropping short and Taylor rocks back to cut to the point boundary.
Athers has just mentioned this Mike Gatting drop on commentary. Yep, Denly's was bad. It was awful. But nothing beats this...
OVER 55: NZ 164/2 (Taylor 67* Williamson 68*)
The sixth bowler of the day is Woakes. What can he manage that those before him did not? Nothing. The wind is picking up out there with trousers billowing. I wonder if it might bring the rain to put the England players out of their misery.
OVER 54: NZ 163/2 (Taylor 66* Williamson 68*)
Denly, he of dropped sitter fame, is given a chance to toss some leggies up to these two batsmen. Worth a go. He lands the first five nicely on a length before dropping short and allowing Williamson to tuck the final ball off his thigh for two.
OVER 53: NZ 161/2 (Taylor 66* Williamson 66*)
Poor Archer - who remains wicketless - is trying all he can and mixing it up as though this is a limited overs game. He ends the over by squaring up Taylor, but no great trouble.
No one is going remember that Pope drop are they?
Denly taking absolutely all the heat off the young non-keeper. Great team man.
— Dave Tickner (@tickerscricket) December 2, 2019
OVER 52: NZ 158/2 (Taylor 65* Williamson 64*)
I've rather neglected to tell you what Broad is doing with the ball. Not a great deal, is the answer. He's trying, mixing it up with yorkers and short stuff and full balls. But nothing much doing. Three singles. And time for drinks.
OVER 51: NZ 155/2 (Taylor 64* Williamson 62*)
That catch is just looming over everything else happening out there. They are showing replay, after replay, after replay, after replay. A maiden from Archer.
OVER 50: NZ 155/2 (Taylor 64* Williamson 62*)
Still can't get over this.
— The Cricketer (@TheCricketerMag) December 2, 2019
OVER 49: NZ 154/2 (Taylor 63* Williamson 62*)
OH MY WORD!!! I have just seen one of the worst dropped catches ever, ever, ever produced in international cricket. Archer totally bamboozles Williamson with a slower ball bowled without use of his front arm, Williamson chips it straight into the hands of Denly at short mid-wicket and Archer literally wheels away in celebration with arms wide apart... only to turn around and see that Denly has dropped it. It was as soft as if you were throwing a ball to a three-year-old to teach them how to catch. Wow. Wow. Potentially the worst drop in Test cricket I've ever seen. The England players can do nothing but laugh. And they that's what they are doing. Even Archer. Stunned.
OVER 48: NZ 152/2 (Taylor 62* Williamson 61*)
Almost an hour into the day and no wickets for England. You have to suspect this match is going nowhere fast. Taylor, who drives to the cover sweeper for one, and Williamson are enjoying themselves though. Which is more than can be said for any of the England folk with ball in hand.
OVER 47: NZ 149/2 (Taylor 61* Williamson 59*)
Archer bends his back a little but there's little trouble for the two set batsmen. Two singles from the over.
OVER 46: NZ 147/2 (Taylor 60* Williamson 58*)
Time for Broad to have a crack. Full and outside off to Taylor, who picks up three courtesy of a Crawley calamity at cover.
OVER 45: NZ 144/2 (Taylor 57* Williamson 58*)
"The pitch is winning, hands down," says Bumble on commentary. "This is just like middle practice." Archer comes on to try and make something happen. A couple of full slower balls are thrown in and then a slower ball bouncer as he opts for white-ball mode with this unfriendly pitch. Just a single from the over.
OVER 44: NZ 143/2 (Taylor 56* Williamson 58*)
Dross from Stokes, who gets his line all wrong and plops one well wide of off stump, which is a total freebie for Taylor to cut hard for four. That's his half-century. Stokes then gets a bit tighter with his next delivery, but Taylor does exactly the same for another boundary. I suspect this will be the end of his spell. But he should have picked up the wicket of Williamson.
OVER 43: NZ 134/2 (Taylor 47* Williamson 58*)
That's some way to bring up a half-century: Williamson leans into a crashing cover drive and the result is four runs, which also brings up the hundred partnership. Curran - as he did a couple of overs ago - then finds the outside edge again, but the ball flies through the huge gap between keeper and gully to run away for four more.
OVER 42: NZ 124/2 (Taylor 46* Williamson 49*)
Gone in a flash as Taylor swipes Stokes wide of gully for four. That flew away. And plenty of singles here with both batsmen opting to take on the short ball and pulling hard to men on the leg-side boundary. They look more comfortable when looking to be aggressive against the bodyline stuff from Stokes.
OVER 41: NZ 116/2 (Taylor 40* Williamson 47*)
Curran continues to attack the stumps from round the wicket while Athers, on commentary, bemoans the lack of deterioration in this pitch over the five days. Jofra Archer has a yawn at mid-off before being tasked with trundling towards the boundary to fetch a drive from Williamson which yields two runs.
OVER 40: NZ 114/2 (Taylor 40* Williamson 45*)
Stokes has just had a word with Pope about where the keeper is going to stand behind the stumps. You have to feel for Pope, who is very much a stand-in keeper and it's not easy to view the ball past the batsman with Stokes wanging it in halfway from round the wicket. Williamson looks in a little trouble against this bowling actually. He's a bit unsure after that chance in the last Stokes over and now ducks into one.
OVER 39: NZ 113/2 (Taylor 40* Williamson 44*)
Have a bit of that. Taylor larrups Curran through the covers for a gorgeous boundary. Curran then finds Taylor's outside edge, but it's a thick edge and it runs away for four more.
OVER 38: NZ 103/2 (Taylor 32* Williamson 43*)
Stokes now goes round the wicket with his short stuff at Williamson. It's little short of bodyline. Williamson is a fine ducker of the ball. Duck, duck, duck... and was that a drop??? Yes, it was. Williamson looks to tuck one off his hip but gloves it behind and Pope, diving to his left, shells it. Oh no. It's never easy for an unsighted wicketkeeper diving to their left, but that was regulation. Dear, oh dear. He seemed to dive too far and put it down despite getting two hands to it. I'm not sure we'll see Pope take the gloves again for his country after this match.
OVER 37: NZ 99/2 (Taylor 32* Williamson 39*)
Credit to Root, he's trying some funky fields this morning. Now Curran has a very straight short mid-on, a very straight short mid-wicket and a very straight short mid-off. Taylor is relatively unruffled by some tight stuff and the result is a tidy maiden. Actually, can a maiden not be tidy? Unlikely.
OVER 36: NZ 99/2 (Taylor 32* Williamson 39*)
Stokes - who is not bowling at full pelt - will share duties to start with. And he does so with only three men on the off side: cover, gully and a fly first slip standing on the boundary rope. What a cracking field. Not sure Taylor is going to get much in his half of the pitch here. Nope - it's bend your back-type bowling. Taylor defends a few, pulls a couple to mid-wicket and eventually gets a single.
It's free entry for all at Hamilton today. Which is nice.
OVER 35: NZ 98/2 (Taylor 31* Williamson 39*)
Curran begins round the wicket to Williamson and he's targeting the stumps from the outset. Every ball is angled into the right-handed batsmen, with Williamson tucking the third of them for a couple into the mid-wicket region. A hint of the ball keeping low? Perhaps.
The players are out on the field and it's time to begin.
Where have the draws gone?
Is this match going to buck the 2019 trend?
Teams have won more often in 2019 than any other year in Test history, continuing the 2018 trend. Only two drawn games (AUS v IND in Sydney, ENG v AUS at Lord's) in 33 completed tests this year, that's a *very low* 6.1% - the least of all years to have hosted at least ten Tests. pic.twitter.com/7RxSpjuPOg
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) December 2, 2019
Please don't let this happen
Glass half empty: We may only get one session of play today.
Glass half full: Those rain percentages aren't the worst in the world. Could we get through to tea time and beyond?
The end is nigh
Hello and welcome to coverage of the final day's play in this two-Test series. It could (and I really, truly hope it turns out to) be a rather interesting day's cricket. But it almost certainly won't.
When England reduced the hosts to 28 for two late in yesterday's evening session it looked as though there might be a rather hefty glimmer of hope for Joe Root and his side. A meaty slice of hope. But then Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor bedded in.
That left New Zealand 96 for two overnight, which is a deficit of five runs. England will be desperate for early wickets today. Indeed, it is their only chance of victory. There are three problems though:
The first of those is the pitch. It has taken quite some time for 24 wickets to fall in this match, so the chance of England's quicks suddenly rattling through the New Zealand middle and lower order is not great.
Second is the quality of the batsmen they are up against - a group who know all they must do is survive the day and that will ensure a 1-0 victory in this series.
And third - and most worryingly for a live blogger in vital need of some action to keep him awake through the early hours of the morning - is the forecast. It's not good. Our man at the ground Scyld Berry thinks we will see play until lunch time and then the rain will start falling, which could bring a hasty conclusion to proceedings.
So all in all, it doesn't look great for prospects of a result. But you never know. If England can take three or four wickets in the first hour I'd suggest you delay bedtime. If not... I'm going to struggle to give you much to stay awake for. Play begins in half an hour.