Prior and Monty pull it off

Cricinfo this morning told me that England ended the day on 90-4, having lost their top three and the night watchman. Great!

Meanwhile, coming up to drinks on the morning of Day 5, Bell & Root are still there and – dare I say it? – looking solid. Their work is slightly easier today inasmuch as scoring runs is not important. They just want to rotate the strike to keep the bowlers on their toes. The pitch has no demons in it so concentration and technique are at a premium. But the new ball is due in 12 overs, probably just before lunch.

00:15 and McC has just left the field. Looks like he might have pulled a hamstring. Kane Williamson takes over and bowls the last over with the old ball. 8 runs off it.

Out! Root lbw to Boult, very first ball with the new ball swings back in and traps him plumb. And two balls later, NZ miss a trick. Boult sends down a perfect inswinging yorker and no one notices that it clips Bairstow’s boot before hitting the bat. What a test this is for Bairstow – he’s had no cricket for the last six months.

Hello! Bell and Bairstow both dropped in the same over off the bowling of Trent Boult. He must be sick!

Bairstow goes 10mins after lunch, caught behind off Southee. He looked out of his depth. Enter Prior and he promptly hits a  2 and two 4s. Bell is playing too often at stuff outside off he doesn’t need to touch.

McC is back on the field. He no doubt has that thigh strapped up.

Bell is living dangerously with this new ball. But Boult is bowling very, very well.

That’s drinks, so England are halfway through the day.

40mins later and it’s all happening out there. Bell 67 and Prior 36 are still together.

Prior is playing his usual game, what Nasser Hussein calls see-ball-hit-ball. He was given out lbw but he knew he’d hit it and the review proved him right. Then a couple of overs later he copped a perfect bouncer from Wagner: off the shoulder of the bat in front of his chin, onto the helmet, up in the air and down to the foot of the stumps, hitting them but without dislodging the bails!

Bell’s strike rate is now up to nearly 28!

If these two can stay there for another 15mins till tea, NZ nerves will start to shred.

Out! Last over before tea and fucking Bell has played at one too many outside off and this time he’s snapped up in the slips. Pillock. Well bowled, Wagner, though. He deserved that.

So – NZ now have 2hrs left to get any two of Prior, Broad and Anderson. Oh yes, there’s Monty too.

20mins into the last session and Broad is conscientiously keeping his head down, literally. Bob Willis just said he seems to have a weight in the front of his helmet.

That’s interesting. Prior seemed to be happy to have Broad on strike, but in the last over Broad took an almighty swish at one about two foot outside off, and now Prior pointedly takes a single off the last ball of the over when he could have taken two.

Prior is on 72 now. The runs don’t matter as far as the match result is concerned, but a ton for Prior would be a fitting reward not only for today’s effort but for all his selfless batting.

Broad really is trying very hard to keep his head down and get right behind everything.

Spin at both ends now, with Martin trying to turn it out of the footprints into Broad the left-hander.

That’s drinks. 15 overs left.

Prior 83 and Broad yet to score after 45 balls faced.

One over from Martin, bowling to Broad with 7 men round the bat + the keeper.

Now Wagner comes back for another go, drops it short to Prior and Prior goes to 87. Three balls later another bouncer hits Prior on the shoulder.

Broad gets off the mark with 2 runs down to vacant third man. That was the 62nd ball he’d faced. Prior on 97.

10 overs left.

4! That is Prior’s ton. Well done that man! 73 in the first innings and 5 catches too. Man of the Match?

Broad survives another over from Martin. In the circumstances, his innings has been very impressive. He definitely wins back a whole bunch of Brownie points.

One over of Southee and now Boult is back for Martin. He’s the one I fear. He’s due some luck too after those two dropped catches just before lunch.

6 overs left.

Out! Broad c Taylor b Williamson, the so-called part-time spinner. He has 3 now. And NZ have another 21 balls to bring this test home.

Out! Anderson c Taylor b Williamson. Two in the over. Anderson wafting outside off stump.

Can Monty save the day? He has survived the last ball of the over. Now Prior absolutely must keep the strike.

Boult to Prior. The last ball of the over runs away for four and the NZ crowd are applauding because means Monty is on strike. But he fends off the first ball and they scramble through for a single. A clear run-out chance but the fielder misses the stumps. Prior is back on strike.

But he can’t get off strike at the end of the over.

So Monty has to face the final over. Come on, Monty. Your hour of glory! Boult to bowl the final over and you can bet it will be full and fast and straight.

Monty plays and misses and the ball misses the stumps. Same again. Boult is knackered. 3rd ball and Monty has hit it! They run a single.

Prior now has to play three balls.

2…

1…

Prior gets everything behind it, raises his arms once and then just stands there. He must be drained. Absolutely drained.

What a match!

England have managed to hang on for the draw. But it went right down to the last ball of five days of cricket. You’re accustomed to this sort finish in one-day cricket but not after a 5-day Test – 30 hours of cricket. Everyone is moved, there are hugs all round, team-mates and opponents. They all know this will go down as one the greatest matches of all time.

You read it here first!

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