Wag­ner five-for leads NZ to crush­ing vic­tory over Eng­land

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Mount Maun­ganui, New

Zealand - New Zealand marked the ar­rival of Test cricket in Bay of Plenty with an em­phatic vic­tory over Eng­land on Mon­day.

Th­ese are times of rich prom­ise for Kane Wil­liamson's side and it made light of the sug­ges­tion that the sur­face at Mount Maun­ganui might be too flat to pro­vide a re­sult, Neil Wag­ner's ebul­lient five-wicket haul see­ing it home with plenty of room to spare on the fi­nal day.

For Eng­land, it was a case of new coach, new ap­proach, but largely the same re­sult. Hav­ing won the toss and gained first use of the pitch, a first-in­nings to­tal of 353 was soon shown up as in­ad­e­quate by New Zealand's more ruth­less ap­proach.

The brit­tle na­ture of its bat­ting was then ex­posed for a se­cond time, with no one man­ag­ing more than Joe Denly's 35 as it crum­bled to an in­nings de­feat.

Need­ing to bat for most of the day in or­der to squeeze out of the game with a draw, Eng­land lost four wick­ets dur­ing the af­ter­noon ses­sion to fa­tally un­der­mine its cause. Wag­ner claimed three of them in a five-over burst be­fore tea that ripped the guts out of Eng­land's re­sis­tance, with a ninth-wicket stand of 59 be­tween Sam Cur­ran and Jofra Archer only serv­ing to un­der­line what might have been achiev­able.

New Zealand has not lost a Test at home since 2017, and the way it wres­tled con­trol in this match - through the record­break­ing feats of BJ Watling and Mitchell Sant­ner and a con­certed team ef­fort with the ball - ably demon­strated why it sits No 2 in the ICC's Test rank­ings.

Watling was named man-ofthe-match for his marathon dou­ble-hun­dred and while Sant­ner could not add to the three vi­tal wick­ets he had claimed on the fourth evening, there was a fly­ing catch to savour as New Zealand surged to­wards vic­tory.

Although Eng­land did threaten to draw the game out, los­ing just one wicket in the first 41 overs of the day, it is a marker of New Zealand's col­lec­tive strength that some­one al­ways seems to stand up when re­quired.

Wag­ner, who looks like he would cel­e­brate the suc­cess­ful pur­chase of a new hoover with a fist-pump­ing run to­wards the cashiers, charged into the fray dur­ing the af­ter­noon ses­sion to

break the tourists re­solve.

Eng­land's bats­men did, how­ever, lend the odd help­ing hand. Per­haps most dis­ap­point­ing for Joe Root, the man hop­ing to help build a new era for Eng­land in

Test cricket un­der Chris Sil­ver­wood, was his own dis­missal and that of his vice-cap­tain, Ben Stokes.

Both de­parted to ill-judged strokes against balls that were not threat­en­ing their stumps, clear­ing the path for Wag­ner to run through the rest of the line-up.

The loss of Stokes, Eng­land's top-scorer in the first in­nings, dealt the gravest blow to its hopes of sav­ing the game. He and Denly had taken the score to 121 for four, ap­proach­ing the af­ter­noon drinks break, when Tim Southee's per­se­ver­ance out­side off stump was re­warded as Stokes was bowled off his inside edge try­ing to force a wide de­liv­ery.

New Zealand, and Wag­ner, sensed their mo­ment. Denly's 142-ball vigil was ended a few overs later, when Wag­ner went around the wicket and found some ex­tra bounce from a length to flick the glove - Ku­mar Dhar­masena de­clined the ini­tial ap­peal but Wil­liamson im­me­di­ately, and con­fi­dently, re­viewed.

Ol­lie Pope was then suck­ered in Wag­ner's next over, mishit­ting what looked like a wide full toss but was ac­tu­ally a knuck­le­ball to­wards cover, where Sant­ner con­tin­ued a mem­o­rable Test by cling­ing on a full stretch.

When Jos But­tler opted to leave Wag­ner's first de­liv­ery with the se­cond new ball, only to see it crash into the base of off stump, the game was ef­fec­tively up.

Cur­ran and Archer stitched to­gether a part­ner­ship to ex­tend pro­ceed­ings into the fi­nal ses­sion, thwart­ing Sant­ner's at­tempts to add a five-for to his hun­dred; but Wag­ner re­turned to claim the last two wick­ets with con­sec­u­tive balls and seal an im­pres­sive win.

(AFP)

New Zealand's Neil Wag­ner (right) cel­e­brates with team­mates after bowl­ing Eng­land's Jos But­tler dur­ing the fifth day of the first Test at Bay Oval in Mount Maun­ganui, New Zealand, on Sun­day

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