Bowled Over- England hold on – By Luqman Liaqat

A sensational batting display from century-maker Matt Prior helped England save the third test in Auckland and draw the three-match series at 0-0.

Prior had great support from Stuart Broad in the final session of the test match who played out 13 overs as the tourists held their nerve to escape from the jaws of defeat against the Black Caps.

England skipper Alaistair Cook made the same mistake as Brendon McCullum from the last test by winning the toss and putting the opposition into bat on flat opening day pitch.

The New Zealand openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford put on a stand of 79 for the first wicket before England finally had a moment to celebrate just before the lunch break.

Rutherford edged behind to Cook at the slips off Steve Finn for a solid 37, England did ball well at times in the morning session but in vulnerable conditions the situation soon changed.

Fulton’s previous best in his last 17 tests was 75 but he raced past it to reach 124 not out at end of the day during a 171 run stand with Kane Williamson who scored a perfect unbeaten 83. The tall opener hit 14 fours and 3 sixes, including two from two balls off Monty Panesar.

The new ball looked lively, however the England bowlers couldn’t do much damage as the host’s ended day one on a strong 250-1.

England started day two very brightly as James Anderson broke the third wicket stand of 181 dismissing Williamson for 91. Ross Taylor soon followed Williamson back to the pavilion for just 19 and overnight centurion Fulton fell for 136 when he flicked a thin edge to a diving Prior down the leg side leaving the score at 297-4.

Brendon McCullum (38) and Dean Brownlie (36) put on a partnership of 68 to get New Zealand back on track for a high scoring first innings.

Surprisingly for England part-time bowler Jonathon Trott made the breakthrough as McCullum nicked one behind. Brownlie’s wicket gave Anderson his 297th test scalp with the scoreboard on a strong 373-7.

Tim Southee’s quick-fire cameo ended the innings strongly for the hosts as he scored 44 off 33 including two sixes and four boundaries. Finn had Southee and Trent Boult’s wickets to claim figures of 6-125 as the hosts finished on 443.

Boult struck twice before the end of play to put the Black Caps in total control of the test match, firstly Cook tickled a leg-side delivery to wicket-keeper BJ Watling and Trott was trapped on the pads for 27 as England reached 50-2 at stumps.

Resuming day three on 50-2 the tourists were soon in further trouble at 72-5, Southee dismissed Compton and Ian Bell (17) of lbw decisions. Boult sent Johnny Bairstrow packing in the same mode of dismissal before Prior with 73 and Joe Root (45) shared a strong century stand for the fifth wicket.

Prior struck 13 boundaries in his innings before driving Neil Wagner straight to Rutherford at point, his dismissal sparked a collapse as Broad and Finn both fell to Boult who also had Anderson caught behind to claim impressive figures of 6-68.

Southee bowled out Root to polish off the England innings in style for only 204.

New Zealand decided not to enforce the follow-on with a lead of 239, as the hosts lost three wickets for eight runs.

Broad had Rutherford caught at gully and Taylor played across his stumps of a straight one on either side of Williamson’s downfall as he inside edged an Anderson delivery onto his stumps giving England some hope heading into day four as the Kiwis lured to 35-3.

Brownlie was removed cheaply in the morning for 28 by Monty Panesar to leave New Zealand 82-4; however a century from Fulton and McCullum’s knock of 67 saw a stand of 117 put the hosts back in command. Fulton was finally dismissed by Finn as he pulled straight to Root at long-on and Watling was dismissed by Panesar as the declaration came at 241-6 giving England an improbable target of 481 to win.

It took only nine balls for the tourists to lose their first wicket as Compton edged low to Watling off Southee. The New Zealand wicket-keeper missed a sharp chance to dismiss Cook, but he made no mistake to remove Trott off Wagner.

Cook and Bell did well to frustrate the opposition bowling unit as they both looked to see out the day until Williamson struck twice late on to leave England reeling on 90-4 at the close of day four.

New Zealand only needed six wickets to clinch a series victory over England on the final day, with the introduction of the new ball the task looked to have become even easier when Root’s dogged resistance came to an end as he was trapped lbw for 29.

Bairstrow was dropped by Williamson at gully, but he failed to make the most of the lifeline, because he was soon caught by Taylor off Southee for just six.

The most crucial partnership of the day came on the seventh wicket, Prior and Bell frustrated the bowlers by putting on a stand of 78 off 25 overs. Bell’s innings of 75 from 271 balls was finally over at the stroke of tea when Wagner found the edge of his bat and Southee took the catch at third slip.

After tea, Broad dug in deep to see out 77 balls and he took a record 103 minutes to get off the mark as he provided a perfect cameo to Prior. Prior clubbed the ball down the ground to reach his 7th test ton taking 148 deliveries.

McCullum’s bowling unit threw everything at the three lions and finally reaped their reward when Williamson removed Broad with 21 balls still left and Anderson fell two balls later to set up a nail-biting finale and bring back memories of the last wicket miracles against South Africa from 2010 at Centurion and Cape Town.

Prior and Panesar somehow survived the final three overs, however the left-arm spinner was almost run out when passing the strike to Prior.

The draw will definitely boost the English team’s morale ahead of this summer’s back to back Ashes series and on the other hand the Australian’s have plenty to think about after a 4-0 whitewash against India in the sub-continent.

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