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Sodhi, Wagner ‘heroes’ as gritty draw gives N. Zealand series

Ish Sodhi takes the acclaim from the Christchurch crowd after his gritty stand with Neil Wagner earned New Zealand a second Test draw against England to win the series
AFP

Christchurch (New Zealand) (AFP) – Ish Sodhi and Neil Wagner were hailed as heroes Tuesday after their gritty 188-ball stand secured a second Test draw and series win for New Zealand against England.

Battered and bruised after a torrid time from a desperate England attack, the pair hung on until bad light stopped play with Wagner’s dismissal in the penultimate over.

The second Test draw in Christchurch gave New Zealand the series 1-0 after they won the first Test by an innings and 49 runs and it stretched England’s winless away record to 13 Tests.

“Neil Wagner and Ish Sodhi were heroic,” captain Kane Williamson said. 

“If it wasn’t for them putting their hand up, weathering the storm bumps and bruises and all, this series result could have been so different.”

Any hopes New Zealand had of reaching 382 to win disappeared when they slumped to 42 for two at the start of the final day when England took two wickets with the first two balls.

England had New Zealand six for 182 when the second new ball was taken before tea, but the series-defining final session belonged to New Zealand.

After Colin de Grandhomme (45) was the seventh wicket to fall, Wagner and Sodhi added 37 runs in 31.2 overs, but by that stage only survival mattered for New Zealand who finished on 256 for eight when the close came after Wagner’s dismissal.

Sodhi, who feared he may have finished with a broken finger, said it was a difficult period to bat through.

– ‘A bit of luck’ –

“I was trying to figure out which balls to play and which to get under and it started to become a bit difficult through the middle period when the odd one would jump,”he said. 

“There was a bit of luck. I had a couple of balls went through the slips and over the gully a couple of times and you could sense their frustration as a bit of fortune went our way.”

It ended an arduous and unsuccessful tour for England who lost the Ashes series 4-0 before coming to New Zealand.

“It’s been very disappointing in terms of results… we’ve not performed to our ability and not got the results we wanted,” said captain Joe Root.

But, despite England holding the upper hand for two sessions on the final day, Root did not believe they could have done any more to win.

“We tried a number of different things and we couldn’t have tried much more,” he said.

– ‘Very frustrating’ –

“It’s very frustrating. I thought we had a very good opportunity coming into today, we had fantastic start and we threw absolutely everything at them.”

After Stuart Broad dismissed Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson with the first two balls, Tom Latham was the first to stand up for New Zealand with a patient 83.

De Grandhomme and Sodhi put on 57 for the seventh wicket and then Sodhi and Wagner saw New Zealand through to stumps. 

Sodhi ducked, weaved, slashed and took hits to the body as he produced his third Test 50, facing 168 balls, while Wagner faced 103 balls for his seven.

Joe Root stacked fielders round the bat, and spinner Jack Leach had eight in close catching positions as the number of remaining overs sank below six.

But edges flew just wide of outstretched arms, adding to England’s frustration.

After Broad’s early breakthrough, which included the first golden duck for Kane Williamson in his 65-Test career, wickets fell at regular intervals.

Ross Taylor avoided the hat-trick, was dropped on six by James Vince and progressed to 13 when he saw Leach place Alastair Cook at short backward leg and promptly chipped the ball straight to him.

Henry Nicholls went for 13 and BJ Watling was out for 19.

Vince, who had dropped Latham on 23, made amends with a diving catch at square leg to end Latham’s near five-hour stay in the middle.

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