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March 26, 2013
For most of the final day at Eden Park, Alastair Cook was tense but calm. However, when two wickets fell in three balls during the dying moments of the match, threatening to undo England's attempts to salvage a draw, it become too much even for the England captain. He followed the last three overs courtesy of a running commentary by others in the dressing room although Monty Panesar's brief innings brought some light relief.
Cricketers are notoriously superstitious, especially in tight situations. As Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad pushed England closer to a draw Cook, whose role in the match ended when he was out on the fourth evening, stayed in the same seat until Broad edged to slip.
"I was pretty good for the majority of it," he said. "I watched 95 percent of it - the last 18 balls I didn't watch, but I was having a running commentary. I sat in one place the whole day. Then we lost Broady, and I thought that position had run out of luck - so I thought I'd move."
The updates were provided by Jonathan Trott and Huw Bevan, the fitness trainer, and included some language you would not hear on TV or radio, especially when Panesar was sprawling towards his crease scampering a single to give Prior the strike.
"There were a few ooh-arghs, and then a few expletives saying 'What's gone on there?' Then we obviously had to sit and watch the replay and started laughing - probably the only thing you could do in that situation."
Watching England cling on for a draw was not a new feeling for Cook or, indeed, quite a few in the dressing room. The most famous also involved Panesar when he and James Anderson survived the final 69 deliveries against Australia at Cardiff in 2009. The following winter, Graham Onions twice batted out the final over against South Africa at Centurion and Cape Town.
"With all of them, the tension is pretty much unbearable at the end," Cook said. "Obviously, everyone remembers the Australia one - because of how important it was at the time. But there were the two in South Africa as well. This one, because it's just happened, seems to bring back all those memories. It's exactly the same feeling, exactly the same tension - people walking round, finding little spots to sit. It's amazing what cricketers do in those situations."
However, while Cook could reflect with satisfaction on how England regained their pride on the final day and retained their No. 2 spot in the Test rankings with a series draw he could not escape the fact that in two out of three Tests his team had been distinctly second best.
"Certainly, we came here to win," he said. "So we're disappointed we haven't done that. We haven't played as well as we needed to win a Test series. That's the bottom line. We fought hard, but haven't played as well as you need to beat anyone in international cricket. We've got to find out the reasons why that is and get back on that horse and get our standards higher.
"We've got to give a lot of credit to New Zealand. They put us under a lot of pressure as well. It's a combination of them playing well and us not playing as well as we know we can. We've just about managed to respond to the pressure, and hold on. But bowled out for 160 in the first innings in Dunedin and then here getting 200, on that wicket, is not good enough."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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