New Zealand, finally, broke the jinx against England, but it was not without passion and hard work.
Kane Williamson edged the first ball from Stuart Broad on Day 5 and was out for a golden duck – for the first time, the modern day great from New Zealand was out in first ball of a Test match. New Zealand lost two wickets in the first two balls of a Test and were in all sorts of trouble. The dream of breaking the jinx against England on home soil since 1984 seemed to be a distant dream.
42 for 2 transformed into 66 for 3 and then 91 for 4 and at 162 for 6, England’s chances of squaring the series was just a mere formality. But cricket is such a game of glorious uncertainty and in Test cricket, it does not take time for a stubborn resistance to gain momentum and script one of the most memorable moments to relish in times to come.
Colin de Grandomme, the underrated all-rounder is a hard nut to crack. Man, he is an absolute jerk. He would play his shots without fear and counter-punch with a rare disdain. Just when you are thinking, the match has gone out of the grip, this de Grandhomme would not let you switch off your television set and focus on your job. He would play with your tension. He would make fun of your predictions and he would play with the minds of the fielding team while batting.
He made fun of us in the first innings and did the same in the second. He dug deep. He instilled composure along with Ish Sodhi – the work-ant and frustrated England by grafting a partnership to arrest a certain collapse. England were still not sure what was written on their fate and how this seventh-wicket stand determined the Kiwi tail to put up a defiant resistance which left England freezing in the cold.
Ish Sodhi, the promising youngster five years ago, started to punch above his weight. In the limited-overs format, yes, he has been good enough, but in my opinion, a cricketer’s true character can be measured through Test cricket. Sodhi proved, he has character and the zen and zest to climb the highest peaks.
Then there was that gritty Neil Wagner – a destroyer with the red cherry and loves targeting the rib cage, but an absolute novice with the bat, raised to the occasion to exhibit how tough he could be with the bat when the matter is about saving a life. 7 runs off just 103 runs is not a bloody joke from a number nine against the likes Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood and Ben Stokes. It was a typical grinding which is always required in Test matches from a tail-enders when the chips are down.
Sodhi hung around at 48 for a long, long time – no interest in reaching a milestone, but the motto was to take the ship home safely and break the jinx. Yes, it’s always tough to break these 30 or 40 or 50 years jinx and it requires a huge amount of passion and break-down of a lot of sweat.
New Zealand’s tail displayed both. Finally, New Zealand broke the jinx of 34 years. The eighth-wicket pair batted in more than 31 overs to seal the series, their first victory over England since 1999 and on home soil since 1984.
Sodhi punched the air in ecstasy, hugged by Kane and others.
It was a moment to relish.
England were crestfallen. They tried heart and soul to wrap it up, but it was one of those days, where you just can’t take the upper hand against a bunch of passionate and hardworking unit. The cricketing Gods smiled upon the nuggety characters from New Zealand. It would not have been fair to Test cricket and its neutral fans had New Zealand failed to achieve it. On that day, Test cricket did not want to witness any tragic heroes, but the victory of passion and hard work was the order of the day.
New Zealand’s hard-fought draw was a victory for Test cricket at a time when a circus show is about to enter the town within a few days. The nail-biting finish at Christchurch was a fitting reply to the so-called modern day critics, who convey all the wrong messages regarding Test cricket to the young generation.
New Zealand and England have proved yet again, the future of Test cricket is not in danger, but it would continue to amaze us time and again.