WELLINGTON: New Zealand beat England by just one run in a second-Test thriller on Tuesday to draw the series in the most dramatic fashion in Wellington.
The hosts became only the fourth team to win a Test after being asked to follow on.
Neil Wagner took the decisive wicket of James Anderson when New Zealand wicketkeeper Tom Blundell pulled off a diving catch at the Basin Reserve to seal a memorable, nail-biting triumph.
The hosts had fought back to set a confident England a target of 258 runs to win, but the visitors were all out for 256 as the two-Test series finished 1-1.
“Amazing achievement, hats off to everyone, everyone kept fighting.” said bowler Wagner, who finished with 4-62.
“That’s the characteristics of this team, they (England) played well — credit where it’s due — but we found a way of contributing.”
England skipper Ben Stokes was disappointed to have lost but happy to have played his part in the drama.
“That game is what Test cricket is about — the emotions we were going through and the Kiwi boys as well,” he said.
“Everyone’s got their money’s worth today.”
It was the first time New Zealand after being forced to follow-on. England had managed it twice, against Australia in 1894 and 1981, while India beat Australia in 2001.
A topsy-turvy Test match swung back to New Zealand during the final two gripping days.
England were on course for victory after declaring their first innings on 435-8, then bowling out New Zealand for 209.
Former skipper Kane Williamson dragged New Zealand back into the Test with a superb 132 in their second-innings 483 on Monday, leaving England 258 to win.
Having resumed at 48-1, England wobbled Tuesday morning by losing four wickets for just 27 runs before Joe Root steadied the ship by steering his team to 168-5 at lunch.
As England chipped away at their target, Root’s vital partnership with Stokes ended on 121 when England’s captain was caught at square leg off Wagner.
The pressure on England intensified dramatically after Root went for 95, also to a Wagner short ball, with England still 57 runs short.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes kept England in the fight with a cavalier 35, surviving a dropped catch by Michael Bracewell before clubbing three fours to the boundary.
But Foakes was caught by key man Wagner in the deep off Tim Southee, leaving last pair James Anderson and Jack Leach still needing seven runs for victory.
Anderson clubbed a four to get within two runs, before Wagner and Blundell combined to land the knockout punch.
Blundell was delighted to hang on to the tumbling catch.
“Saw it well and luckily it went in clean. Pretty happy,” said the wicketkeeper.
Stokes, who will now turn his focus towards the Ashes and Australia this summer, said it had still been a successful few months under the attacking “Bazball” cricket of head coach Brendon McCullum.
“Disappointing to end on a loss, but four (wins) out of five away from home is something we will take great pride in,” he said. “A few months off and get back to what we love doing.”