Collapse costs England dear
England suffered a dramatic final-day collapse as they slumped to a 189-run defeat against New Zealand in the first Test in Hamilton.
Thoughts of a thrilling run-chase abounded after New Zealand boldly declared their second innings in the morning session to leave the tourists chasing 300 to win in a minimum of 81 overs.
But Kyle Mills removed England’s top four in a sensational opening spell, three wickets fell in the space of nine deliveries after lunch, and by the time Monty Panesar edged Jacob Oram behind later in the session, their innings had long since been transformed from a potentially historic pursuit to an exercise in salvaging pride.
Panesar’s dismissal just before a delayed tea interval brought the curtain down on a disappointing display that saw England bowled out for 110 in just 55 overs.
Ian Bell’s unbeaten 54 was the closest any England player came to offering prolonged resistance, with Alastair Cook the only other batsman to reach double figures.
The honours instead went to Mills and Chris Martin, who returned figures of 4-16 and 3-33 respectively on a pitch which offered bowlers precious little assistance throughout.
The surface may hardly have been conducive to strokeplay, but it had shown so few signs of deterioration that England began their chase harbouring genuine hope of scoring 300 or more to win a Test for only the fourth time in their history.
Mills quickly forced them to adjust their ambitions by decimating the top order in an opening spell that yielded figures of 6-2-7-4.
Cook was caught behind playing away from his body and Michael Vaughan, his partner in a breezy opening stand of 19, fell leg before to a full-length delivery that demanded a bigger stride and straighter bat.
Wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum took a diving one-handed catch to account for Andrew Strauss, fiddling outside off stump, and any remaining optimism in the visiting dressing room evaporated when Kevin Pietersen was hit on the back pad shouldering arms.
That left England reeling on 30 for four, but Bell and Paul Collingwood avoided further mishap before lunch.
There was no let-up in pressure after the interval, with Collingwood’s failure to score until the 33rd ball he faced illustrating New Zealand’s control - as well as England’s overly cautious approach.
When he chopped on attempting to cut Daniel Vettori, he had scored two off 50 deliveries, and Tim Ambrose and Ryan Sidebottom succumbed in quick succession shortly after.
Ambrose, scorer of a half-century in his first Test innings, fell for a four-ball duck - he had the top of his off stump clipped as he played inside the line to Martin - while Sidebottom, feet anchored to the crease, edged the same bowler behind.
Matthew Hoggard, dropped by the otherwise immaculate Mills at leg gully off Martin, managed one straight drive before he fell in almost identical fashion to Sidebottom, and Jeetan Patel had Steve Harmison taken by a juggling Stephen Fleming at slip to reduce England to 77 for nine.
Though Monty Panesar accompanied Bell for the addition of 33 runs for the last wicket, their alliance merely postponed Kiwi celebrations.
Bell’s aggression - he used his feet expertly to lift Patel for two straight sixes as he went to a 140-ball fifty - hinted at what might have been had England shown more inclination to attack, while Panesar defended doggedly for almost three quarters of an hour to highlight the placid nature of the pitch.
Earlier, New Zealand, 147 for eight overnight, extended their innings by just seven overs, adding 30 runs before captain Vettori called his men in on 177 for nine.
Sidebottom, who took a memorable hat-trick on the fourth evening, claimed the only New Zealand wicket to fall when Vettori skewed a drive to Cook at cover, giving the left-arm seamer 6-49 and outstanding match figures of 10-139.