England completed a memorable and somewhat surprising victory over New Zealand from the last ball before tea on the fourth day of the 2nd test. Four sessions previously England had looked down and out, with their middle order being totally unable to compete against Daniel Vettori’s excellent control and flight.
Monty Panesar had an excellent afternoon yesterday, using unerring accuracy to pin down New Zealand’s batsmen, who seemed to be bogged down by nerves, and perhaps surprised by the excellent position they found themselves in. Panesar’s test best 6-37 helped wrap up the innings for 114, setting England the daunting target of 294, the highest fourth innings total for victory in an Old Trafford test, and England’s 5th highest successful 4th innings run chase anywhere.
Strauss and Vaughan successfully negotiated the tricky last few overs at the end of the third day following the dismissal of Cook for 30 late in the day, and started excellently this morning, although none of the luck went New Zealand’s way. As as often the case with Michael Vaughan he played himself into some exquisite form, and then threw it away when well set with a lapse of concentration when a really big score was there for the taking. He and Strauss had done enough to get England more than halfway home by the time Vaughan fell for 48.
Strauss became the first batsmen to score a century in a winning second innings at Old Trafford, and he seems to be back to his best. His 106 was a delightful mixture of solid defence and exceptional back foot, square-of-the-wicket attacking play, and was an absolutely vital innings in this match. Comparisons can be drawn to England’s successful run-chase against New Zealand in Strauss’ debut match when Hussein (having run Strauss out early on) made an excellent pugnacious hundred
Frail Middle Order
The departure of Vaughan left England’s fragile and nervous middle order exposed. Pietersen, however, began to bludgeon his way back into to shape. He has looked a little like a walking wicket for Vettori, but today he counterattacked superbly, including one beautiful straight drive for six back of the bowler’s head. He needlessly ran himself out with 46 still needed however, almost straight after Strauss’ departure, leaving Bell and the haplessly out of form Collingwood at the crease. Collingwood treated his innings like a net session, trying to get himself some runs, and finally cut loose (for the first time in any cricket this season really) in the last over before tea, finishing with 24 not out.
The third test starts on 5th June, and England will clearly go into the match more positive. They dug themselves out of a dreadful mess, with a mixture of spirit, luck and determination, and the upper order all appear to be finding their feet at last in this series. New Zealand will need to regroup and look at what went wrong. Hopefully the final test will be an equally enthralling match.
My Man of the Match
Andrew Strauss – 60 in the first innings and a superb century in the 2nd. Perhaps the two fifties and two centuries in his last four test innings will begin to silence those who question his place in the side.