ENGLAND lost one of the most incredible Test matches of all time by ONE run when Jimmy Anderson was dismissed to a legside catch.
Ben Stokes’ team became only the fourth in history to lose a Test after enforcing the follow-on.
And it was only the second time that a team has won by a single run – following West Indies’ triumph over Australia at Adelaide in 1993. There have been two ties.
It was thrilling, it was nerve-shredding, but ultimately it was agonising for England.
Perhaps an historic, unforgettable Test match is what you would have expected in the era of Bazball and the way Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum are changing the red-ball format.
England could be said to have lost by the “barest of margins” – which echoes the memorable phrase used by TV commentator Ian Smith to describe their win over New Zealand in the 2019 50-over World Cup final at Lord’s.
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Even an innings of 95 by Joe Root and 30s from Stokes and Ben Foakes were not sufficient to get England over the line after they lost four quick wickets at the start of day five.
Those victims included Harry Brook, England’s player of the winter, who was run out without facing a ball – a so-called diamond duck.
Stokes said: “That game is what Test cricket is about – the emotions we were going through – our team and the Kiwi boys as well.
“It’s a disappointing end to the winter but four wins out of five away from home is something we’ll take great pride in. We have a few months off and then we will get back to doing what we love.”
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England began the final day on 48-1 chasing 258 to win.
They were soon in big trouble with nightmatchman Ollie Robinson skying a catch, Ben Duckett edging behind and Ollie Pope guiding a catch into the slips.
Then came the most severe setback came when Brook responded to a call for a single from Root as the former captain angled a shot towards third man.
But Michael Bracewell intercepted the ball, threw to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and Brook was stranded several yards short of the line. He continued running to the dressing-room while Root held his head in anguish.
That left England 80-5 and the Kiwis on top. But a limping Stokes, in pain from his chronic left knee problem, helped Root put on 121 for the sixth wicket.
Stokes had batted mainly with patience but could not resist attacking a bouncer from Neil Wagner. He lost his grip on the handle of his bat and the ball lobbed to square leg.
One run later, Wagner struck again when Root miscued to mid-wicket.
Stuart Broad attempted an uppercut against Matt Henry but the ball sailed straight to third man.
Before lunch, Blackcaps fast bowler Henry was unable to complete an over because of a back problem and left the field for a time, but he seemed to make a rapid recovery.
Foakes and Jack Leach took England to within seven runs of their target with two wickets standing when Foakes top-edged a pull shot against a bouncer and Wagner tumbled at fine leg and held the catch.
Anderson, the 40-year-old veteran who must have thought he had seen it all, threw back his head in disappointment when he was last man out, feathering an edge to another short ball by Wagner.
Leach finished one not out – exactly the same as in his famous last-wicket stand with Stokes against the Aussies at Headingley in 2019 – but he will remember this innings with less fondness.
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England might be criticised by some people for enforcing the follow-on and the sometimes casual way they appear to bat with aggression their mantra.
But this is Bazball and, wow, it is entertaining and great fun.
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