In the whole series this was the only match that disappointed as a contest, England winning a few minutes after the start of the last day by an innings and one run. The New Zealand second innings was a disaster, yet it was only the climax--or anti-climax depending on loyalties--to a match in which the tourists' batsmen struggled to survive against superlative English fast bowling, with Arnold again to the fore. This was their last chance to achieve that elusive win over England, and after the batting successes at Trent Bridge and Lord's the manner of its going must have been all the more disappointing.
On a pitch green enough from preparation to keep the quicker bowlers interested, New Zealand lost three wickets in four balls with the score at 24. Arnold got two of them, Old the other while Snow, who bowled superbly well, had only frustration by which to remember the morning. Old accounted for Turner, whose wicket, even at this stage in a disappointing series, was still considered an important one. On this occasion Turner bravely took on England's quick bowlers with three fingers of his right batting glove strapped together because of a hand injury.
At 78 for four when Arnold had dismissed Hastings lbw, there began a revival which put New Zealand back in the match. Those two combative players Burgess, whose cover driving and square cutting were impressive, and Pollard put on 106 for the fifth wicket. Mainly because of them New Zealand reached 276, yet the total would have been so much bigger had their dismissals not betrayed all the application that had gone before.
Pollard, at 62, suddenly moved down the pitch to Old, attempted a shot not worth describing and watched while the ball carried in a gentle, sickening arc to cover point. Not long afterwards Burgess played weakly outside the off-stump at 87 and Old, who had only won a place in the side on Greig's inability to bowl, had taken three for 11 in a spell.
England's own batting efforts were built round a superb innings of 115 by Boycott, a century which completed his set against all the Test playing countries. He batted three hours twenty minutes with impeccable judgement and a sense of aggression that has not always been apparent in his play. It is hard to imagine that anybody could have played better than this on a pitch which had taken four hours rain on the second day.
Once he was gone, New Zealand had their last chance to win the match. At 190 for four on a pitch which had become dark green and which was giving the maximum help to the seam bowlers, England were less than certain. Yet there was no real crisis. Fletcher, 81, and Illingworth, 65, put on 90 for the fifth wicket against an attack that, with the exception of Congdon, lost its collective head. The need, as Congdon demonstrated, was for the ball to be kept up to the bat. In that way he not only dismissed Boycott, but beat him the ball before as well.
Instead, the faster bowlers pitched so short so frequently that the England batsmen took their runs as they wished. The hook stroke is not a favourite English stroke, yet it was played with abandon on this day.
When England finished at 419 they were 143 ahead and it was likely that England would win now as the pitch retained some of its dampness although drier than before. What nobody expected, in view of their past stubbornness, was a New Zealand debacle.
When their fourth wicket fell at 85 they were going down, but at least defiantly. When their ninth fell at 106 they were in a state of despair and only a last wicket stand between Howarth, who here as at Lord's looked too good to be batting at number eleven, and Turner dragged the match into the fifth day.
Even then what was left was of only academic interest. Turner, who had been beaten more times than probably he could count in the first half of his innings, had gradually produced something like his real form. He had stayed on through the catastrophe until here he was, on the verge of becoming the first man to carry his bat through a Test innings three times. But New Zealand and Turner were denied even that consolation. On a deserted ground, with his score 81, Snow dismissed him lbw.
For New Zealand it was the one match of the summer they will want to forget. In Arnold, the best seam bowler in the world when conditions encourage him, Snow and Old they had faced an attack that posed problems too much for their talent.