England beat New Zealand by 121 runs

Monty Panesar returned Test-best figures of six for 126 as England beat New Zealand by 121 runs in the third cricket Test on Wednesday and clinched the three-match series 2-1.

Off-spinner Panesar completed his seventh five-wicket haul in Tests, claiming three of the five wickets to fall on the final day, hastening New Zealand’s dismissal for 431 as it chased 553 for victory.

England recovered after losing the first Test at Hamilton comprehensively, by 189 runs, to win the second at Wellington by 126 runs and to dominate the third, breaking a run of series defeats overseas after losses to India and Sri Lanka.

New Zealand resumed its second innings Wednesday at 222 for five, still 330 runs behind England and lost all chance of saving the match when overnight batsmen Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum both fell to Panesar inside the first hour.

By lunch New Zealand was 360 for nine and it took England only 31 minutes in the afternoon to wrap it up.

Taylor was out for 74 and Brendon McCullum for 42 after a partnership of 104 for the fifth wicket which delayed England’s victory and briefly raised New Zealand’s hopes of a draw.

New Zealand was able to further delay the end through a partnerships of 48 for the eighth wicket between Daniel Vettori (43) and Jeetan Patel (18).

Teenage fast bowler Tim Southee then pounded nine sixes and four fours in an unbeaten 77 from 40 deliveries which lifted New Zealand to 431, putting on 84 for the last wicket and ensuring the Kiwis went down with a hint of defiance.

Southee’s innings incorporated the fastest half century by a New Zealander in tests, from 29 balls, and was the sixth fastest by a player from any nation in Test history. He added that distinction to his haul of 5-55 in England’s first innings, which made him the sixth New Zealander to take five wickets in an innings on Test debut.

England’s wins in Wellington and at McLean Park marked an astonishing turnaround after Hamilton.

The English reacted to that defeat by making the harsh decision to drop veteran fast bowlers Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison and to impose the bowling responsibility on relative newcomers Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

It was those bowlers, and Panesar in the last innings of the summer, who turned the series around. Sidebottom took 24 wickets in the three Test matches, including five, six and seven wickets hauls and a hat trick, at an average of 17. In doing so he took more wickets than any other English bowler in a three-Test series in New Zealand, beating the previous mark of 19.

He was voted player of the series.

”It’s been a fascinating series played by two teams who have a lot of respect for each other,” England captain Michael Vaughan said. ”Both teams have tried and fought very hard.

”After going one down in the series at Hamilton, we showed a lot of heart and fight to get us out of some tricky positions.

”We’ve played hard and I think we played the better cricket but I’m really looking forward to the return series in England because I think it will be just as topsy-turvy.”

England showed its fighting qualities both in Wellington and Napier.

It was three wickets down for four runs in its first innings in the third Test before recovering, thanks to an innings of 129 by Kevin Pietersen, to reach 253.

England then bowled out New Zealand for 168 to take an 85-run lead and to assume control of the match. It reached 467 for seven in its second innings, led by Andrew Strauss with 177 and Ian Bell with 110.

Panesar’s best bowling performance and a bold and tireless performance by Stuart Broad ensured New Zealand was kept well short to its unrealistic winning total of 553.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori regretted the inconsistency of his players, particularly his batsmen, which let the series slip away.

”We didn’t show the consistency we needed and, sadly, that’s where we are as a test team at the moment. Unfortunately we’re not quite up to scratch with our batting,” Vettori said. ”We have to be consistent because we don’t have the talent of other Test countries.

”We pulled that off for five days at Hamilton but in Wellington we let it slip for a session and here we let ourselves down for a couple of sessions with the bat and two sessions with the ball.”

New Zealand and England now meet in a three-Test series in England in May and June. The series begins at Lord’s on May 15 and ends at Trent Bridge in a match beginning on June 5. – Sapa-AP

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