CHRISTCHURCH: England’s long and cheerless summer in the southern hemisphere ended in a final, bitter disappointment Tuesday when victory in the second test against New Zealand slipped through its fingers and it had to accept a 1-0 series loss.
Set 382 to win or more than a full day to bat, resolute lower-order batting saw New Zealand 256-8 when stumps were drawn at 6 p.m., with the sun close to setting on an early autumn day.
Ish Sodhi, who had batted exactly 200 minutes and faced 168 balls, was 56 not out at the close of play. His dauntless partner for 107 minutes, Neil Wagner, was the last man out for 7.
In two long partnerships which occupied all of a long final session, Sodhi frustrated the England bowlers, denying the tourists a recently rare test victory away from home and giving New Zealand an even rarer series win.
“I’m rapt,” Sodhi said. “There was a bit of drama at the end their but Waggy (Wagner) was really good there. He got me through those tough periods and kept me going.
“The whole time I was just thinking about playing as straight as I could. They started bowling bumpers around the wicket and I found them quite hard to pick up so there were tough periods there but once we go through that I think it was a pretty true wicket.”
Stuart Broad took wickets with the first two balls of the final day, seemingly setting England on course for a victory that would have tied the series and broken its run of 12 winless tests away from home. Sodhi’s fortitude denied England even that small consolation.
Batting at No. 8, Sodhi had a few pretensions to the role of allrounder, having scored two half centuries in his 14 previous tests, with a highest score of 63 and an average of 22. He showed a doggedness though which frustrated England.
“We threw absolutely everything at New Zealand today,” England captain Joe Root said. “Fair play to New Zealand, they hung on very well.”
Root said that barring the first innings of the first test when England was dismissed for 58,” it has been an incredibly close series and the most frustrating thing for us as a side is that we really let ourselves down in that innings.”
“Bar that, we’ve played some really good cricket and especially throughout this game we’ve showed where we want to go as a side.”
New Zealand was 162-6 when Sodhi went to the crease before tea when opener Tom Latham, who had batted almost five hours, was dismissed for 83.
With Latham out, New Zealand’s lower order was exposed and England apparently had plenty of time to push for the win.
Instead, Sodhi joined with Colin de Grandhomme in a seventh-wicket partnership which lasted more than 90 minutes and spanned the crucial period which saw the introduction of the second new ball.
De Grandhomme, who had already made an important contribution by scoring 72 in New Zealand’s first innings, batted 137 minutes and faced 97 balls in his invaluable 45.
Sodhi then joined with Wagner in the eighth-wicket partnership which ended England’s hopes, shaking off a number of blows to the body, one to the forearm and another which might have cracked a finger. He wasn’t intimidated, even with nine England fielders clustered about the bat in the final overs.
England has now not won a test series away from home since 2016 when it beat South Africa 2-1 in South Africa.
More recently, it lost 4-0 in India in 2017 and 4-0 in Australia to surrender the Ashes. The solitary bright spot of the tour was a limited-overs series win in Australia.
The disappointment for England on Tuesday was even more harsh as it came at the end of one of its longest tours to the southern hemisphere since the days in which touring teams traveled by boat. England played its first match in Australia on Nov. 4 and finally ended its tour five months later, though only a handful of players took part in all test and limited overs series.—AP