The year 1984 is a notable one in New Zealand-England cricket history. For 54 years, starting 1930, the Black Caps had contested against the English in Tests unsuccessfully. They hadn't even won a Test against the arch-rivals until 1978, but the trend had begun to change.
The Kiwis won their first Test against them 48 years since they first played against each other, and followed it up with another win in 1983 though they lost the series 3-1. In 1984, the Black Caps rewrote history with their first ever series win against the English, eking out a solitary win in a three-match series at home and drawing two other games to grab the series.
It was supposed to be a metamorphosis to their horrible Test record against England. It didn't quite turn out that way as for the next 32 years, they played England in six series’, winning a mere two Tests and never winning a series.
A period of 32 years is a long, long one indeed. Martin Crowe was just two years into his international career, Daniel Vettori had probably just learned walking and current New Zealand skipper, Kane Williamson, wasn't even born when New Zealand last beat England at home.
Yet there was hope that the 2018 series would be different even before it had begun. New Zealand had been quite good at home since the beginning of 2017, winning three out of four series’ — all at home — and losing one against South Africa by a whisker.
England, on the other hand, has been abysmal away from home with their last Test win dating back to 2016. They hadn't won a series since 2015 when they fought fiercely to beat the Proteas in the Rainbow Nation. They had surrendered meekly to Australia in the Ashes and even with Ben Stokes’ superhero return, England were jittery to say the least.
The first day of the first Test set the tone of the series. England found out that their worst fears hadn't quite materialised in Australia when Trent Boult and Tim Southee wreaked havoc at Eden Park in 124 balls of complete mayhem. The visitors were wrapped up in cotton wool and dumped into the abyss, bowled out for 58 in a performance that coach, Trevor Bayliss, described as “embarassing”.
"Not in our wildest dreams did we think we'd win the toss and get them out in the first session. It was good fun," Boult had said. "To not let the foot off the throat and not let the pressure off them. I saw the scoreboard of 23 for 8 at one point.. was pretty surreal. The ones when you are working towards a plan and it literally happens in front of your eyes is probably the best feeling. But I don't want to sit here and sound like I'm a magician of any sort.”
He may not think of himself as a magician but after his rip-roaring exploits in the series — 15 wickets in two Tests at 18.33 — Williamson will adore his wizardry. If Boult and Southee set the tone for the series, Williamson and his batting cohorts carried forward the good work.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) April 3, 2018
Williamson and Henry Nicholls burnt England's hopes with centuries in the first Test before Boult, Neil Wagner and Todd Astle destroyed England yet another time to take first honours in the series.
Yet, on the final day of the series on Tuesday, in the second Test, it seemed like New Zealand were throwing the advantage out of the window. Jeet Raval, who had wonderfully resisted everything thrown at him by the English bowlers for 23 overs late on Day 4, gifted his wicket away off the first ball of the day and his skipper followed next ball to a jaffa from Broad.
When Ross Taylor, Nicholls and BJ Watling fell in quick succession, it seemed like the hosts had lost their mojo and the record would never ever be rescripted. What unfolded next couldn't have been written in any script. Tom Latham grit it out the Dean Elgar way for more than 200 balls before falling to Jack Leach.
Colin de Grandhomme did what he does best — counter-attack — and alongside Ish Sodhi, who had played more than a 100 balls only once in his Test career, resisted England’s seige. The duo lasted 155 balls and created the first signs of panic in the English camp. That, though, was put to rest when de Grandhomme carelessly threw away his wicket with a needless pull shot.
It all seemed over for the Kiwis, who hadn't beat England (home or away) in a Test series since 1999. But when you have a team rather than a random bunch of individuals thrown together, you are never out of any game.
Wagner, who had played out 103 balls on his debut at North Sound against West Indies, played out exactly as many balls to salvage the Test. He was last man dismissed for 7 off 103 balls, a stunning strike rate of 6.8.
England were exhausted and torn out by the end of the day despite dominating 14 sessions in the Test. They had surrendered to New Zealand the team. One man couldn't have defied the English on Tuesday. Realising this, the Kiwi players batted out of their skin, to eke out a series win after 32 years against England in home soil.
Their victory can be attributed to a spectacular effort from every member in the team. Right from the openers, who resisted Broad and James Anderson with the new ball in a tricky hour late on Day 4, to Sodhi and Wagner, both of whom had little to contribute with the ball in this series, everyone brought out their ‘A’ game when it mattered.
Williamson's words in the post-match presentation ceremony summed up New Zealand's efforts. “England threw everything against us and we withstood it, an unbelievable effort. Fantastic series. It's nice to be on the right side.”
For a side that has few superstars, New Zealand have their own way to compete with the best. As a team, where eleven players bond like family, the Black Caps are always in the game irrespective of the situation.
Perhaps this is also why Darren Lehmann felt Aussies should look to go the Kiwis way after the embarrassing ball-tampering saga in South Africa. “The thing for me would be if we take a leaf out of someone like say New Zealand’s book, the way they play and respect the opposition,” Lehmann had told before announcing his decision to step down.
Doing quite a few things right there, the Kiwis!
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