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England hold on in thriller

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Ian Bell led a remarkable rearguard and Matt Prior followed suit to save the decisive third Test, which England ended nine wickets down, and earn a 0-0 series draw.

Having batted for the last two hours yesterday, Bell survived until the brink of tea when he fell for a stubborn 75. By that time he had shared a fifty partnership with Prior, who rode his luck to reach a fluent century.

Prior was then accompanied by a resolute Stuart Broad, who took 62 balls to get off the mark, and they batted for the vast majority of the last session. That was until Kane Williamson repeated his heroics of 24 hours earlier to have Broad and James Anderson held at slip.

Matt Prior

Centurion Matt Prior celebrates defending the game's last ball to earn England, who were nine down, a draw and a 0-0 share of the series

With 3.1 overs and one wicket remaining, last man Monty Panesar survived five deliveries before Prior played out the last three. The wicketkeeper-batsman ended with 110 of the tourists’ 315 for nine in 143 overs, 166 behind New Zealand.

Panesar was able to draw on his experience of saving an Ashes Test at Cardiff in 2009. England similarly finished nine wickets down in draws with South Africa at Centurion and Cape Town the following winter.

While sharing this rubber will be disappointing to favourites England, the second-ranked Test team will be mighty relieved not to have lost to opponents six places lower who outplayed them for much of this contest. It marks the end of a successful winter that saw an historic Test series win in India and included Twenty20 and one-day international triumphs earlier on this tour.

Had New Zealand won at Auckland, it would have been their maiden Test series defeat of England since 1999 and second at home, the first being in 1983/84.

Only twice before had a side starting the last day four wickets down batted throughout to save a Test: the game England captain Michael Atherton’s unbeaten 185 versus South Africa in November 1995 made famous and Australia against the Proteas at Adelaide last November when debutant Francois du Plessis displayed a similar level of grit.

After Williamson removed Alastair Cook and nightwatchman Steven Finn yesterday, the latter with what became the last ball of the day, Bell resumed alongside Joe Root with eight of England’s 90 for four.

Bell and Root showed positive intent to score smoothly during another gloriously sunning day at Auckland’s Eden Park on what was a still flat drop-in pitch that offered minimal assistance to the bowlers.

Shortly after their fifty partnership arrived, New Zealand took the new ball at the earliest opportunity and Trent Boult trapped Root lbw for 29 with an in-swinger. He could have had two more wickets in his next over, the last before lunch, but Bell and Jonny Bairstow were shelled at fourth slip and gully respectively.

Bairstow’s let-off mattered little when Tim Southee had him held at first slip, but the reprieve of Bell - on 40 at the time - was more costly as he soon moved to a half-century.

Early in his innings Prior, who hit 73 earlier in the game, survived a review and then used one to his advantage, to overturn an lbw verdict, in consecutive Southee overs. He was nearly caught at midwicket via a top-edged hook and then deflected a bouncer into his stumps but amazingly the bails did not dislodge.

With their half-century alliance raised, Bell and Prior looked on course to reach tea together - only for the former the edge Neil Wagner to third slip on the drive, heralding the interval.

Prior brought up a typically boundary-laden fifty before Broad successfully reviewed Boult’s lbw verdict. Following the third half-century alliance of the day, Prior reached his seventh Test ton with a trademark pulled four.

The eighth-wicket duo appeared to be seeing England through to safety - Broad overturning another Boult lbw - until Williamson’s two wickets in an over that gave him Test-best figures of 4-44. Suddenly New Zealand were on the brink of victory, but Prior and Panesar had other ideas.

Live Text Commentary

Evening Session

Monty Panesar & Kane Williamson

5:11am - MATCH AND SERIES DRAWN!!! - Eng 315/9; Prior 110, Panesar 2 - Boult is to bowl the last over. Panesar survives the first two balls before getting a single to mid-off, crucially bringing Prior on strike. He hits four to square-leg and defends the last two deliveries to save the game. The series is drawn 0-0. What a nail-biter this has been!

4:58am - Prior plays out a Boult over, inside-edging one four and getting another to third man from the last ball when he would have preferred a single or three to steal the strike. Panesar scrambles one to point from the first delivery of Williamson’s over to get Prior where he and England want him. Unfortunately he cannot get the strike for the start of the last over.

4:51am - WICKET! Anderson c Taylor b Williamson 0; Eng 304/9 - James Anderson falls in identical fashion to Broad, and New Zealand need one wicket to win. Monty Panesar survives the last ball of the over, almost playing on.

4:48am - WICKET! Broad c Taylor b Williamson 6; Eng 304/8 - Williamson, who surprisingly struck twice at this stage yesterday, is reintroduced but starts with a short ball that Broad drives off the back foot for four. Two deliveries later he edges to slip, ending a superbly-stubborn stay.

Stuart Broad & Matt Prior

4:41am - Prior, an instinctive puller, cannot resist a short Southee ball but only narrowly avoids the leaping midwicket fielder to bring up England’s 300 with a single. Prior then blocks out a maiden to Boult. There are four overs to go.

4:33am - REVIEW - The previously threatening Southee is back but Prior survives a runless over. Boult returns and strikes Broad, moving across his stumps, on the front pad. The left-hander got so far across that it hit him outside off stump as he played a shot, so he survives and New Zealand have no review left.

4:19am - CENTURY! Prior (148b 18x4 0x6) - Suitably, Prior reaches three figures with a pulled four, albeit an aerial one that just evaded the fielder at midwicket. He accepts richly-deserved applause before seeing out the over. Broad then plays out a Martin maiden. New Zealand are not rushing through their overs so there are set to be eight more left.

4:10am - Prior, who hits three through point, and Broad defy Wagner. It is important that Prior is trusting Broad to take his share of the strike. Prior then cracks Martin for four and three to move to 97 and herald the fifty partnership. From the last ball of the over Broad finally gets off the mark, from his 62nd ball, with an edged two to third man.

BJ Watling, Stuart Broad, Dean Brownlie & Brendon McCullum

4am - Prior pulls Wagner for four and, later in the over, gets in a tangle against a bouncer with the ball looping off his arm to wicketkeeper BJ Watling who appeals only half-heartedly. Soon after, Broad survives a similar shout for a bat-pad catch off Martin.

3:52am - The umpires have marked the start of the last hour, during which there is a minimum of 15 overs - although New Zealand can bowl more if they are able to. Broad plays out a maiden to Martin with six men round the bat.

3:47am - Broad, remaining scoreless from 45 balls, sees out a Martin maiden. Prior drives two through cover off Williamson before drinks are taken with 15 overs to go.

3:35am - Bruce Martin takes over from fellow spinner Williamson and begins with a maiden to Broad. In the next over, Prior guides Southee to fine-leg for four.

3:27am - With 20 overs remaining, Prior inside-edges Southee uncomfortably close to his stumps but for four to fine-leg. The two players see the funny side in mid-pitch conversation.

Matt Prior

3:18am - Prior flicks Boult off his pads for four and Broad, who is still on nought, plays out a maiden to Williamson.

3:08am - REVIEW - Following a Kane Williamson maiden to Prior, Broad denies Boult a wicket-maiden by overturning an lbw verdict. Broad, who is yet to score, was knocked off his feet by a yorker but got inside edge onto pad.

2:57am - Continuing round the wicket and with a packed slip cordon, Southee tests Broad’s technique. The equally threatening Trent Boult then takes over from fellow left-arm seamer Wagner.

2:46am - Southee, bowling round the wicket to the left-handed Broad, appeals loudly for lbw but opts not to review with the ball hitting the pad outside and probably missing off stump. Prior then pulls Wagner behind square for four.

2:37am - FIFTY! Prior (74b 9x4 0x6) - Prior drives Tim Southee to the long-off rope to herald his half-century. He then pulls and cuts Wagner for four, continuing to play in his naturally attacking manner.

2:33am - Neil Wagner completes his over, a wicket-maiden, to Stuart Broad.

Afternoon Session

2:10am - WICKET AND TEA! - Bell c Southee b Wagner 75; Eng 235/7; Prior 45 - Wagner delivers a fiery maiden to Bell, followed by a runless Martin over to Prior. Bell then edges Wagner to Southee at third slip on the drive, breaking a 76-run stand with Prior. New Zealand are firm favourites for victory now.

1:58am - Prior attempts to hook a Wagner bouncer without connecting, prompting a loud appeal for caught behind. New Zealand sensibly do not risk losing their last review. Prior then cover-drives Martin for four.

1:51am - Not to be outdone, Bell on-drives Williamson for four. Prior continues on his merry way with a cover-driven boundary off the returning Martin.

Dean Brownlie, Ian Bell & BJ Watling

1:45am - Kane Williamson is introduced and the part-timer produces a threatening over in which Bell inside-edges four between his legs. In the next, Prior pulls his adversary Wagner to the boundary.

1:35am - Bell plays down the pitch for a single that raises an eventful half-century alliance. Given Prior’s reprieve in the previous over, there is some chat between him and Wagner. It is heating up out there.

1:31am - Extraordinary! After Martin’s maiden to Bell, Prior edges Wagner for four and later in the over survives when the ball hits his stumps. Prior, on 28, could only loop a brutal bouncer up onto the top of his helmet en route to a clunk of the stumps but the bails are not dislodged.

1:21am - Prior follows Martin’s maiden to Bell with a crunching pull for four off Southee, who has bowled eight straight overs since lunch. The Barmy Army’s trumpeter plays Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a prayer’ - whose chorus includes the line ‘we’re half way there, living’ on a prayer’ - in recognition of England having batted out half the day.

1:10am - CHANCE - After Bell cracks Bruce Martin - who has replaced Boult - to the cover boundary, Prior top-edges a hook off Southee that falls just out of the reach of diving Neil Wagner at midwicket. Drinks follow the over.

Tim Southee & Jonny Bairstow

1:02am - REVIEW - Boult defeats Bell’s outside edge before Southee appeals for lbw against Prior. The hosts wisely do not review as the right-hander got a thick inside edge. Two balls later Rod Tucker gives Prior leg before to Southee for 16 but there is another inside edge and the wicketkeeper-batsman survives.

12:49am - REVIEW - Southee bowls a beauty to Prior that goes through to wicketkeeper BJ Watling. With two reviews to use, Brendon McCullum - who has been back on the field since lunch - asks the TV umpire to take a look. HotSpot shows no edge and Prior remains on 10. Later in the over he safely carves four over the slips.

12:43am - Following a quiet over each from Boult and Southee, the ball has to be changed due to going out of shape. The replacement should be of a similar condition to the 10-over-old one.

12:32am - FIFTY! Bell (198b 6x4 0x6) - Prior punishes Boult for erring in line with two fours to fine-leg. In the next over, Bell pulls Southee for four and immediately drives three through extra-cover to herald his half-century.

12:22am - WICKET! Bairstow c Taylor b Southee 6; Eng 159/6 - Southee finds a defensive outside edge from Jonny Bairstow, which goes through to the safe hands of Ross Taylor at first slip. England are in trouble now. Matt Prior is off the mark first ball with two to leg.

12:14am - Tim Southee, armed with a ball just three overs old, starts the session with a tight over to Ian Bell - who takes a single to cover from the last delivery. Trent Boult follows up with a threatening maiden.

Morning Session

11:32pm - LUNCH - Eng 158/5; Bell 41, Bairstow 6 - Immediately after his let-off, Bairstow clips four through square-leg. Have New Zealand let a win slip through their fingers in that last over?

Joe Root & Trent Boult

11:28pm - CHANCES! - Bell survives on 40 when he drives at Boult away from his body and Dean Brownlie cannot hold on at fourth slip. Bairstow, on two, plays a similar shot and edges to Williamson at gully. Both were regulation chances off Boult.

11:17pm - WICKET! Root lbw Boult 29; Eng 150/5 - The left-armer bowls a beauty with the first delivery with the new ball, which pitches in line and straightens to the right-hander. It is plumb so England do not review. The second ball Jonny Bairstow faces is a superb Boult yorker that he digs out. Replays show it hit his foot first and, had New Zealand reviewed, he would have been out.

11:14pm - Williamson, who may be on-field captain with McCullum off, concedes fours to Bell down the ground and through midwicket, the latter moving England to 150. Boult then takes the new ball at the earliest opportunity.

11:09pm - Back-to-back threes off Wagner through the covers herald Bell and Root’s fifty partnership from 159 balls. Sliding to pick up one of those, McCullum hurts his leg and leaves the field at the end of the over. One set of six is left until the new ball is available.

11:03pm - Martin now has three consecutive maidens of his own, but without serious threat. He therefore tries the odd ball from round the wicket.

Ian Bell & New Zealand

10:52pm - Martin and Wagner put together three straight maidens, two of which come from the spinner who still has plenty of close fielders in place. Bell breaks the deadlock by driving Wagner for two through extra-cover. A new ball is due in five overs.

10:44pm - Martin and Wagner keep it tight. Again, the crowd is disappointingly small, particularly considering New Zealand can beat England in a Test series for the first time since 1999.

10:32pm - Martin again drops short and Root punches him for four between mid-off and extra-cover. Neil Wagner then succeeds Boult. A drinks break follows. Bell and Root have now batted for an hour.

10:17pm - Another runless set of six from Boult ends with the left-armer sneaking one past Root’s outside edge. In the next over, Bell cuts a rare loose Martin delivery for four.

10:07pm - Brendon McCullum makes a double bowling change with Williamson surprisingly returning, in place of Southee, and Trent Boult taking over from Martin. Boult starts with a maiden, including a ball that beats Bell’s outside edge.

10:01pm - Southee responds to Root punching him for two off the back foot with a good bouncer. Bell twice picks up two through cover off Martin in the next over.

Joe Root

9:52pm - Root pulls a short-and-wide Southee ball for four. Specialist spinner Bruce Martin takes over from Williamson, beginning with a maiden to Bell.

9:44pm - Southee bowls a maiden to Root. Early signs suggest the drop-in pitch is still true and there is no lateral movement for the seamers. There is little turn for occasional spinner Williamson, who delivers a maiden to Bell.

9:38pm - Ian Bell is batting around a foot out of his crease against Tim Southee in an attempt to avoid being out lbw. The only run of the over is a single to point from the last delivery. Williamson continues and drops short to Bell, who cuts for four to take England to three figures.

9:32pm - Kane Williamson, having snared Steven Finn with the first ball of yesterday’s last over, resumes his seventh against new man Joe Root, who twice clips two to leg and then takes another couple more through point. Like in yesterday’s final throes, there are plenty of fielders crowding the batsman.

Pre-Play News

9:25pm - Only twice have a side starting the last day four wickets down batted throughout to save a Test: the game England captain Michael Atherton’s unbeaten 185 versus South Africa in November 1995 made famous and Australia against the Proteas at Adelaide last November when debutant Francois du Plessis survived all day.

9:20pm - Kane Williamson’s two wickets late on the fourth evening left England 90 for four at stumps, 391 behind. Ian Bell was unbeaten on eight and will be joined at the start today by Joe Root. It is another sunny day in Auckland so it is highly unlikely any time will be lost.

9:10pm - Hello and get ready for what will hopefully be 90 overs today which, providing England do not lose from the last five balls of the 90th over, will earn the tourists a draw at Auckland’s Eden Park and a 0-0 share of the series.

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