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March 17, 2008
The result was an especially timely tonic for England's captain and coach, Michael Vaughan and Peter Moores, who had been facing the very real prospect of a third series defeat in a row, a run of form not endured by England since 1999-2000. Instead England have now put their embarrassing first-Test defeat in Hamilton to one side and ensured that there will be everything to play for in next week's final Test in Napier.
England were made to work hard for their win, however. While McCullum and Jacob Oram had been in harness on the fourth afternoon, the prospect of a more nail-biting finish had been on the cards. But the new ball, which Sidebottom took late on Sunday evening, did the trick for England.
With Sidebottom swinging the ball at a good pace, Oram didn't make it to the close, and when play resumed, the new man Vettori was unable to open his account for the innings. After enduring two close shaves from his first three balls, he jabbed at a rising delivery outside off, and squirted a thick edge to Alastair Cook's right at third slip. England's jubilation was unconfined - Vettori had made 173 runs in his first three innings of the series - but with him out of the way, the way was clear to start working through the tail.
Sure enough, Sidebottom struck again soon afterwards to end a feisty, if brief, innings from Kyle Mills. He blazed two boundaries through the off side to move to 13 from 21 balls, but had no answer to a full swinging delivery that rapped him flush on the pads. The Barmy Army, who had been singing Sidebottom's praises all morning, exploded in acclaim of their new favourite bowler, who has now taken 16 wickets at 17.50 in the series, including five-wicket hauls in the second innings of both Tests.
But England weren't able to begin their celebrations while McCullum was still at the crease. He had been ominously placed on 43 not out overnight, and got into his stride with a fourth-ball flick through backward-square off Stuart Broad, who had opened up from the City End of the ground in place of James Anderson, who was still reportedly feeling the effects of his ankle injury. McCullum then cut Broad into the ground and over the slip cordon to bring up his half-century from 80 deliveries, before following up with another clip off his legs as Broad strayed off line.
But it was only once he had been joined by the No. 10, Mark Gillespie, that McCullum really began to cut loose. Sidebottom dropped short and was leathered through midwicket for four, and one over later Broad was launched over square leg for six. Sidebottom found his outside edge with an outswinger that scooted away through gully for another boundary, but in the same over he had already been launched on the up over the covers.
Eventually, and perhaps reluctantly, England were forced to call upon Anderson, whose ankle could doubtless do with three days' of R and R before the Napier Test. But his arrival did the trick. Bowling fast, full and with good swing, he found McCullum's edge in his second over, only for Andrew Strauss at first slip to shell England's sixth catch of the innings, but three balls later, Gillespie poked outside off, and Ambrose - the nominated Man of the Match - made no mistake.
After that, the end was swift. New Zealand's No. 11, Chris Martin, is not a reassuring sight for any batsman, and McCullum waited only three more balls before trying to mow Monty Panesar out of the park. Instead he picked out Sidebottom in front of the Barmy Army on the long-on boundary, to end England's long and often agonising wait for a win.
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