Third Test

New Zealand v England

At Auckland, March 30, 31, April 1, 2, 3. New Zealand won by 78 runs. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: A. R. Adams.

New Zealand dramatically squared the series with their first home Test win over England for 18 years. Time was running out on the fourth afternoon when they were given room to manoeuvre by the Eden Park floodlights, switched on at 5.50 p.m. Play continued until shortly before eight o'clock, by which time the moon was shining and New Zealand were beaming, having extended their lead to a decisive 311. It had been a crucial two hours.

Hussain complained that his players were unable to see the ball clearly against the night sky, and the sight of Afzaal fielding as substitute, curled up like an armadillo to protect himself at deep square leg, lent weight to his argument. But the umpires were prepared to offer the light only to the batsmen: England, who nearly 16 months earlier had been more than happy to pursue victory in the gloom at Karachi, had to get on with it. A series that had been theirs for the taking when rain limited play to 54 overs on the first two days was being snatched from under their noses by opponents who had shown more daring - and, ultimately, more desperation.

New Zealand took calculated risks throughout, starting with three changes to the side that had saved the Second Test (England were again unchanged). Out went Horne, Butler and Martin; in came Daryl Tuffey, to take the new ball, Andre Adams for his Test debut as the all-rounder, and Harris, a one-day regular playing his first Test since November 1999. The gamble paid off handsomely.

Yet a New Zealand victory had looked a distant prospect on the first morning. After winning his third toss of the series, Fleming chose to bat on a damp pitch, then watched in horror as the irresistible Caddick and Hoggard reduced his side to 19 for four. England's faultless performance was epitomised by Thorpe's stunning one-handed catch, low to his left at second slip, to dismiss Astle.

The force was with England, but Harris, batting as a Test No. 4 for the first time, had a plan. With the ball darting all over the place, he lessened the risk of being lbw - and eliminated the possibility of being caught behind - by lunging forward, bat raised like a periscope. England, unamused, began to lose their discipline. When Caddick took his 200th Test wicket, removing McMillan on the stroke of lunch to reduce New Zealand to 86 for five, they had regained the initiative, but they lost it again when Harris, on 28, gloved Hoggard to short leg via his thigh, only for umpire Cowie to turn down the appeal. As England cursed, Harris and Parore took advantage. At close of play, 151 for five represented a real fightback.

Cricket eventually resumed after lunch on the third day, but not before a minute's silence for the Queen Mother, who had died aged 101. Amid the showers, New Zealand extended their total to a respectable 202, and then tore into England with the new ball as the sun began to set. Tuffey removed Trescothick and Butcher in his first five deliveries - to recreate England's scoreline of none for two from the first innings at Christchurch - and Hussain edged Drum to slip, the eighth wicket of a fast-forward day spanning just 28 overs. The game had risen from its watery grave.

The following morning, after a brief flurry from Vaughan and Thorpe, England were picked to pieces by the giant Tuffey, who made the ball misbehave off an unreliable surface to claim a Test-best six wickets, and by the energetic Adams. His 14th ball in Test cricket had Vaughan caught at the wicket, and then Ramprakash produced an aberrant smear against Tuffey. Flintoff began with some booming drives, and was just hitting his stride when umpire Cowie gave him out caught behind - off a ball he missed by six inches; even the bowler, Adams, looked embarrassed. Resistance was gossamer-thin after that and, when Fleming held his 100th Test catch to dismiss Hoggard, England's total of 160 was their lowest for 22 Tests.

Parore, in his 78th and avowedly final Test, opened in place of Vincent, who had pulled a groin muscle, and helped extend New Zealand's lead to 95 before slashing Hoggard to slip immediately before tea on the fourth afternoon. That evening, the lights came on and the floodgates opened. Harris made another valuable contribution, Astle evoked memories of Christchurch by hammering 65 in 51 balls, and McMillan chipped in with a run-a-ball fifty which included three sixes. In all, New Zealand flayed 216 runs in a session of 41.2 manic overs.

Fleming declared overnight to set England 312 in 105 overs, and when Butcher and Hussain advanced to 122 for two in the 28th, anything was possible. But the pitch, another drop-in, was becoming a minefield: indentations left by the ball during the damp first three days had hardened, and the occasional delivery exploded disconcertingly from a length. New Zealand had no complaints, and England feared the worst when Astle got one to pop at Butcher, catch the splice and fly to gully.

Thorpe followed next over, caught behind off Tuffey to make Parore only the eighth wicket-keeper to complete 200 Test dismissals (he had also taken three catches as a fielder), and Flintoff was bowled two balls later. Hussain, who passed 4,000 Test runs with some pristine straight drives, and Foster prolonged the inevitable but, at 2.53 p.m. on the final afternoon, Hoggard flashed Adams to slip and New Zealand had levelled the series. It was no less than they deserved.

Man of the Match: D. R. Tuffey.

© John Wisden & Co