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Ish Sodhi batted for more than three hours, sharing in crucial partnerships with Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner, to secure a draw in Christchurch
Second Test, Christchurch (day five of five): England 307 & 352-9; New Zealand 278 & 256-8 - match drawn, New Zealand win series 1-0
By the end of this long, barren tour, Joe Root was quite literally on his knees.
The England captain, fielding at silly point, was trying everything in an effort to break a New Zealand rearguard action which in the end could not be broken.
The sight of the Yorkshireman, under a helmet and kneeling on the turf in a desperate attempt to give himself the best chance possible of snaffling any chance to fall his way, was a fitting metaphor for the winter as a whole.
This was progress for England, who went into the final day of an overseas Test with victory very much a possibility and finished it with men surrounding the bat, a seamer whistling the ball past noses as pace and a spinner achieving bounce and turn, but in the results column that evasive ‘W’ was still absent.
After hustling their way through New Zealand’s top order at Hagley Oval, inspired by Stuart Broad taking two wickets with the first two balls of the day, the tourists could not finish the job.
Ish Sodhi made sure of a draw for New Zealand
New Zealand could thank the resolve of Sodhi, who batted for more than three hours for his 56 not out and shared in crucial partnerships with Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner.
England might blame the interference of bad light on Monday evening. They might rue the Kiwis’ three topscorers - Tom Latham, Sodhi and De Grandhomme - all being dropped early in their respective second innings.
Regardless, while this was England’s best Test display of the winter, they are now winless on their travels in 13 matches; the first instance of such a run in their long history.
Less than five minutes into the day, there was every hope that the buck could be well and truly kicked.
Two wickets in two balls from Broad seemed to surprise even the bowler himself, while the Barmy Army did not even have the time to complete their traditional rendition of Jerusalem.
Firstly, Jeet Raval overbalanced while attempting to whip the veteran seamer through the legside, chipping a catch to Mark Stoneman at midwicket.
Jack Leach took his first Test wickets
Then, it was the big one. Kane Williamson, forced onto the back foot first ball, fending at a devious delivery that nipped away, glanced the edge of the bat and nestled happily in Jonny Bairstow’s gloves.
Broad should have had three soon after. Ross Taylor pushed hard to a ball that was just short of a length but James Vince spilled the chance, diving low to his left at third slip.
It was Vince’s second drop of the innings, with Latham having received a life the previous evening. Ultimately, though, and unlike his spillage of Latham, the drop did not cost England too greatly.
Taylor top-edged a sweep into the waiting hands of Alastair Cook behind square on the legside - an inspired piece of captaincy from Root, who had just switched his field - and Jack Leach had a first wicket in Test cricket.
Another loose shot, this time from Nicholls, driving away from his body and picking out Cook at first slip, handed Jimmy Anderson his fifth victim of the match and, with little more than an hour of the day played, England appeared to be cantering towards victory.
Latham and BJ Watling survived until lunch but Mark Wood struck half-an-hour after the interval, removing Watling, to nudge the tourists closer to their hosts’ tail.
With the pitch starting to show signs of deterioration, Leach stepped up to show why Somerset regulars have been screaming for his Test inclusion for more than a year.
Colin de Grandhomme played an important innings
Achieving extra bounce and significant turn, he got rid of the stubborn Latham, caught by Vince on the dive in the deep from another top-edged sweep, and saw Stoneman spill sharp chances at point and silly point, handing livesto De Grandhomme and Sodhi.
The pair made the most of those reprieves, putting together a stand of 57 for the seventh wicket.
Only when England resorted to a bumper parade did De Grandhomme crack, hooking Wood to Leach and fine leg and bashing his bat into the turf in frustration as he turned for the pavilion.
In his place came Wagner. Ducking and weaving away from a continued barrage of short balls from the English attack, the left-hander took responsibility against seam while Sodhi faced the spin of Leach and Root.
The pair would not be moved. Scoring shots were rare - it took Wagner 25 minutes to move from two to six with a boundary off Broad - and Sodhi frustrated England with a series of edges which flew over the slip cordon.
Sodhi reached his third Test half-century after a 189-minute stay at the crease. Wagner was finally dismissed by the final ball of the day after 107 minutes of pure resilience. Between them, the pair faced 271 balls to help see their country to a first series victory over England on home shores since 1984.
It was an extraordinary display of staying power.