Thorpe leads England to victory
England 319 and 284 for 6 (Thorpe 104*, Butcher 59*, Giles 36*) beat New Zealand 384 and 218 (Richardson 49, Giles 4-46) by four wickets
Graham Thorpe led England to a memorable four-wicket victory in the third and final Test at Trent Bridge against New Zealand to complete the series whitewash. After New Zealand collapsed to 218 all out in the morning, England overcame a clatter of early wickets to reach their target of 284 in the extra half-hour in the evening sunshine.
In keeping with the match and the series, the pendulum of power swung both directions during a tense day. It firstly went England's way after Stephen Harmison and Ashley Giles took two wickets each to wrap up the tail for only 28 more runs. New Zealand then hit back by removing both openers before lunch, and then with the crucial wicket of Mark Butcher on the stroke of tea. However, Thorpe made sure it was, in the end, England's day with an unbeaten 104, his 14th Test century.
While Thorpe was at the crease, England were in safe hands. He firstly put on 88 with Butcher, 52 with Geraint Jones and then an unbroken stampede of 70 with Giles, who was dropped twice in his entertaining 36 not out from 45 balls as England closed in on a victory which overshadowed Chris Cairns's swansong.
Thorpe was at his absolute best, punching a host of coverand square-drives in his 13 fours, while staying compact and calm at the crease. He got going by guiding James Franklin through the covers twice in successive balls, and was initially happy to play the supporting role to Butcher. But as others fell around him, Thorpe grew in stature and took the game by the scruff of the neck. He went past his 6000th Test run by creaming Cairns through the covers, and notched up his half-century by steering Scott Styris in between slip and gully for four.
Thorpe just kept on going. He hauled England's target below the 100 mark by guiding Jacob Oram through third man with a typically precise shot, and later reached a deserved hundred by flicking Oram through point shortly before the end. Just like his century in Barbados in April, it was one of the most important of his sparkling career.
His innings was all the more important considering England's early losses. After New Zealand had added only 20 runs for the last five wickets, their bowlers immediately responded. Andrew Strauss was given out lbw to Cairns by Simon Taufel even though the ball pitched outside the line of leg stump (12 for 1), and Marcus Trescothick attempted to flick a straight ball from Franklin through the leg side, but got a leading edge straight back to the bowler (16 for 2).
Michael Vaughan started well, flicking Franklin through midwicket and then crunching Cairns through the covers. However, Cairns got his revenge when he trapped Vaughan in front with a quicker ball that jagged back off the seam and caught him in no-man's land (46 for 3).
Butcher made a cautious start, but showed he was back on song by smacking Cairns for three fours in one over. He brought up the England 100 with an elegant drive off Styris, and belted the next ball through the covers off the back foot. He later signalled his half-century by clipping Styris past gully for another four. At that stage, Butcher and Thorpe were in cruise control, but the fall of Butcher gave New Zealand back the edge. In the final over before tea, Cairns changed the ball after consultation with the umpires, and pitched the last ball of the over on middle: it nipped back a touch to trap Butcher palpably leg-before for 59 (134 for 4).
Andrew Flintoff again gave his wicket away cheaply. He miscued a drive on the up from Cairns - his fourth wicket - and looped it straight to Hamish Marshall, the substitute fielder, at extra cover (162 for 5). Jones, dropped on 6 by Styris at second slip, unleashed a brace of crunching cover-drives off Franklin, but, just as he was hitting his stride, Jones sliced Franklin to Oram at gully for 23 (214 for 5). Again, the balance had shifted back to the bowlers, but Giles completed a memorable match with a cameo knock to help England to their sixth win in seven Tests.
New Zealand, on the other hand, were left to contemplate what might have been, and they will be ruing their early-morning collapse. The action-packed day started as early as the fifth over when Taufel was back in the action, giving Craig McMillan out leg-before to one which kept a little low from Harmison (198 for 6). That wicket took Harmison clear of Muttiah Muralitharan as the leading Test wicket-taker in 2004 so far. Oram then drove Harmison flat-footedly and edged low to Flintoff at second slip for a duck (198 for 7).
That wicket brought Cairns to the crease, and he was welcomed with a standing ovation from the Trent Bridge crowd, as well as a hearty round of applause from the England fielders. However, it wasn't the fairytale ending Cairns would have hoped for, as Giles produced a pearler to remove him. Bowling over the wicket, Giles pitched one on leg stump, and it turned to clip the top of off (208 for 8). The crowd rose to their feet again as an emotional Cairns kissed the silver fern on his helmet and departed for the final time in a Test match.
Franklin, the nightwatchman, was assured in his defence and attack too, but his innings came to an end when he edged a Flintoff awayswinger to Jones for a handy 17 (210 for 9). Chris Martin limped out with Brendon McCullum as a runner, but before he had a faced a ball, Kyle Mills, dropped the previous delivery by Jones behind the stumps, swept Giles to Harmison at short fine leg to close the innings.