December 3, 2019 5:23:51 AM
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor thwarted England’s push for an unlikely victory in the second Test as New Zealand comfortably held on for a rain-affected draw at Hamilton to claim a 1-0 series triumph.
England needed an early cluster of wickets to give themselves a chance amid uncertainty about how much play there would be on the final day, but Ollie Pope and Joe Denly shelled simple catches to reprieve Williamson on 39 and 62.
Denly’s drop was particularly galling – and led to a couple of comical reactions – before Williamson capitalised to amass his 21st Test century, while Taylor remains two behind the Kiwi captain after also going to three figures.
The pair had taken their unbroken partnership to 213 in 66 overs when the forecast rain arrived 15 minutes after lunch, with Williamson on 104 not out and Taylor unbeaten on 105, ruling out the prospect of any further play.
New Zealand, who finished on 241 for two and a lead of 140, were therefore left celebrating a fifth consecutive Test series win at home and their second over England in the space of 20 months.
Archer’s clever piece of thinking saw him lower his front arm before delivering a knuckle ball which seemed to confuse Williamson, who prodded lamely forward into the leg-side. Denly was perfectly stationed at midwicket to take a simple catch but he was unable to hold on to the chance.
Archer had already been wheeling away in celebration before realising the catch had gone down, one so easy even England bowler Steven Finn said on the BBC’s Test Match Special: “I can’t remember a catch as simple as that being dropped.” Upon turning to see the ball on the floor Archer smiled wryly while fellow seamer Stuart Broad, positioned at mid-on and the closest fielder to Denly, had his hands over his mouth – an ‘Ohh My Broad’ moment he will reflect on with not so much satisfaction.
Denly fluffing his lines at least took the heat off rookie wicketkeeper Ollie Pope, who had earlier spilled Williamson. The 21-year-old Surrey batsman was required to take the gloves for just the sixth time in 34 matches because of a back spasm to Jos Buttler on the eve of the Test and had largely gone unnoticed. However, when Williamson gloved down the leg-side he snatched at the opportunity.
Williamson may have presented a couple of opportunities but Taylor was much more composed at a ground where he has flourished. Of his 19 Test centuries, six have come at Seddon Park, where he has amassed 1,066 of his 7,022 Test runs. He and Williamson have combined for 40 Test centuries but this is the first time they have reached three figures in the same innings in New Zealand whites.
England may have lifted the World Cup for the first time but 2019 also marks the first time in this century they have failed to win a Test series in the calendar year. This 1-0 loss follows the drawn Ashes series and 2-1 loss to the West Indies in the Caribbean at the start of the year. The last time they went through a calendar year without a series win was in 1999.
December 26: South Africa v England, day one of the first Test at Centurion, where Joe Root’s side are back in World Test Championship action in a four-match series against the Proteas.