New Zealand Create Test Cricket History After Overcoming England’s Aggressive Approach

England were eight wickets down and still 43 runs short of victory in a nerve-jangling second Test against New Zealand in Wellington. They were staring down the barrel of infamously being just the fourth team in Test history to lose after enforcing the follow-on.

The last team to endure that infamy was Australia’s powerful team in 2001 who lost to India in a defeat that haunted them for years.

With wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and tailender Jack Leach at the crease, players not in the mould of England’s ultra-aggressive approach fondly known as ‘Bazball’, it was noted on the broadcast that they might have to revert to a more conservative style.

Nope. Not with coach Brendon McCullum, the New Zealander turned England mastermind, watching on in the terraces. Foakes, emboldened by the ethos, mustered his best counter-attack to whittle the deficit to single digits.

He seemed to be powering England to their 11th victory from 12 matches since McCullum took the reins alongside skipper Ben Stokes. They had earlier overcome new sensation Harry Brook’s disastrous run-out without facing a delivery while star batter Joe Root fell short of his second ton of the match.

But there was a late twist with Foakes falling with seven runs left. Still that didn’t mean England were going into their shell. Even with six runs remaining, 40-year-old James Anderson – who averages less than 10 in his storied career – had one ball left to see out rampaging quick Neil Wagner, who had willed New Zealand back into the game with a short-ball assault.

Anderson thumped a belligerent boundary to get England on the brink but Leach, who did play defensively, couldn’t score off the next over bowled by captain Tim Southee to force a re-match between Anderson and Wagner.

Wagner, a workhorse who encapsulates tiny New Zealand’s indefatigable approach, summoned one last effort to dismiss Anderson who gloved down the leg-side to trigger wild celebrations.

The dismissal echoed eerie parallels to the only one-run victory in Test history – when legendary quick Courtney Walsh dismissed Craig McDermott in West Indies’ famous win against Australia in Adelaide almost exactly 30 years ago.

Fans on the picturesque grass banks jumped in jubilation while the rowdy England fans were uncharacteristically silent. The normally reserved New Zealand players couldn’t believe it while Anderson was ashen-faced.

McCullum, a hero in his homeland as a former New Zealand skipper and cavalier batter, sauntered onto the ground with a wry smile. He was naturally disappointed, but knew that England’s ultra-attacking rejuvenation was eventually going to lead to a downfall. Live by the sword, die by the sword, could easy be their motto in the changerooms.

England couldn’t complete a fifth straight overseas win, something they haven’t achieved in an eternity, as the two-match series ended 1-1. The all too brief series underlines the increasingly truncated nature of five-day Test cricket where the smaller nations like New Zealand simply can’t afford to host many Tests.

There has been a saturation of think pieces over how to save the slumping Test format, which is played by a limited amount of teams and financially expensive, but England are doing their very best to rekindle interest worldwide.

They play a brand that is upending the format – something like the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball, three-point penchant of the mid-2010s which revolutionised the NBA.

As Wellington showed, there will be hiccups along the way, but this rebranded England – a far cry from the stodgy bore of a year ago – are igniting the old warhorse of Test cricket.

The time has arrived when traditionalists get on their soupbox to remind everyone that Test cricket remains unparalleled in terms of sheer drama and drawn out suspense.

It’s hard to argue with them after the remarkable events in Wellington.