England clinch epic victory
England rewrote the Old Trafford record books as they beat New Zealand by six wickets to open up a 1-0 series lead with just the third Test at Trent Bridge to play.
Andrew Strauss was the hero, striking a composed 106 to continue his international renaissance and help his country chase down 294 in increasingly windy conditions today.
Michael Vaughan (48) and Kevin Pietersen (42) provided important support but the hosts stumbled across the finish line with Ian Bell (21 not out) and Paul Collingwood (24no) at the crease.
History was against Strauss and Vaughan when they began the day: the previous highest total to win an Old Trafford Test was 231 for three, when England beat West Indies in 2004.
The pair extended their second-wicket partnership to 90 with some intelligent strokeplay and positive running before the England captain was caught behind off Chris Martin.
Strauss and Pietersen upped the ante in the afternoon as the Middlesex man reached his 12th Test hundred before falling to Iain O’Brien. Pietersen continued with gay abandon but was run out with England still needing 46 to win.
Bell and Collingwood struggled to match their team-mates’ fluency but soldiered on and reached the target off the last ball before tea.
Defeat represented a major setback for New Zealand, who had looked set for victory at lunch yesterday, having opened up a 179-run first-innings lead over England.
Man of the match Monty Panesar put the home side back in contention with a Test-best 6-37 to dismiss the tourists for 114 in their second innings before England closed day three on 76 for one, with Alastair Cook the man to fall.
In a howling gale today, more akin to Wellington than Manchester, the tourists were blown away as their bowlers struggled to find a consistent line and length, with some abysmal fielding to boot.
Vaughan and Strauss made a patient start against O’Brien and Daniel Vettori but picked up the momentum by taking 12 off one Vettori over thanks to some aggressive running and Vaughan’s cover drive, which reduced the target below 200.
They continued to rotate the strike and Vaughan took the score to 100, cutting Vettori deftly for two through point, and the pressure began to tell on New Zealand.
A Strauss quick single off Vettori became five runs when Brendon McCullum’s wild shy at the non-striker’s end went to the boundary.
Strauss reached 50, from 105 balls, with a controlled edge off O’Brien which went past the slip cordon to the unguarded third man boundary, his fourth four.
The pitch still showed occasional signs of uneven bounce. Martin had the England captain in trouble with a good-length delivery that leapt and took the shoulder of the bat, flying over gully for four.
Martin accounted for Vaughan with the score on 150 after some late away swing which found the outside edge, as he drove, for McCullum to take a regulation catch.
Pietersen got England going in the afternoon session with a flowing cover drive off Martin for four and followed it up by hitting Vettori down the ground for a wind-assisted six.
Strauss elegantly glided Martin to the cover-point boundary to reduce the required runs to less than 100 and then added two further boundaries in Vettori’s next over.
Both batsmen continued to find the rope at regular intervals and Strauss went to hundred with a single to square-leg off O’Brien. His century - his third against New Zealand - occupied 178 balls and included 11 fours.
Strauss went soon after, edging O’Brien to Ross Taylor, who took a smart catch low to his left at a solitary wide slip. Strauss and Pietersen had added 85.
Pietersen was soon to follow when he misjudged a second run off Vettori and O’Brien’s strong throw from deep square-leg left him a yard short.
As Bell and Collingwood struggled to score, O’Brien gifted Bell a life on nine when he could not hold a simple caught-and-bowled chance.
And the pair made the most of this reprieve, resorting to some aggressive strokeplay to carry England to their target.