Kane Williamson had never bagged a golden duck in Test cricket. When he edged his first ball from Stuart Broad on the final day in Christchurch, it meant New Zealand had lost two wickets off the first two balls of the day - just the fourth time that had happened in Test cricket.

By the end of the first hour they had lost four wickets, including Ross Taylor, and the prospect of preserving their 1-0 lead was rapidly slipping away. Yet six hours later, as the setting autumn sun illuminated Hagley Oval until the dying moments of a gripping contest, they were celebrating just a fourth series win over England.

Though, officially, the umpires ended things because of the light, there was no assistance in this escape. New Zealand did it all themselves, from a position few would have given them a chance. It was a shame that Neil Wagner was given out - eventually caught off an inside edge on the DRS - because there was no time for the match to continue, but Wagner had left the field so could not walk off triumphant alongside Ish Sodhi.

Instead, there was the somewhat odd scene of Sodhi the lone batsman in the middle, Tim Southee having not yet reached the centre, being embraced by the 12th man as the umpires removed the bails and the England players sagged in disappointment. Sodhi, unbeaten on 56 off 168 balls, had played the innings of his life and so, too, had Wagner as he blocked for 103 balls in making 7 when every ounce of him was probably wanting to try and deposit the spinners out of the ground.

At times, the pair even managed who would take which type of bowling with Sodhi reckoning Jack Leach's spin was more of a danger to Wagner out of the footmarks but easier for him to defended as a right hander.

"He kept me going, there were some demons out there for sure," Sodhi said. "The ball started turning from rough a little and found it quite to pick up the bowlers from around the wicket. He's a bit of mongrel with the ball and he's got that same mentality with the bat. He was trying to keep fighting against his instinct. Was probably tough but he did it so well. The way he played the bumpers was amazing and showed his character…we got a bit of luck along the way but you have to ride it."

New Zealand's tail had looked a little longer in this Test without the injured Todd Astle, but in the first innings Tim Southee made an important half-century to narrow the deficit then Sodhi and Wagner defied England during the final session. The pitch, by and large, continued its history of not deteriorating massively but for the eighth-wicket pair to soak up 31 overs was a magnificent effort along with the previous stand between Sodhi and Colin de Grandhomme which lasted 25 overs. The efforts of Tom Latham, in stemming the early trouble, were also very impressive.

Sodhi was given a life at silly point before he had scored - at that time it did not appear a major moment - then after tea, when England found the second new ball didn't swing, he was handed a peppering by the short stuff from Mark Wood and Broad (as was Wagner in a taste of his own medicine) taking a blow on the arm which required treatment and a hastily delivered arm guard.

"I was trying to figure out which balls to play and which to get under," he said. "It started becoming quite difficult when the odd one would jump and another would keep a bit low. But you can't really nick it, you can't really get bowled or lbw so if you can get out of the road it's a bit of a win."

The result meant Williamson joined the small group of New Zealand captains to secure series wins over England: Stephen Fleming, Geoff Howarth and Jeremy Coney. His attempts to control the final day ended with the first-ball lifter from Broad, so all he could do was watch nervously through 100 overs.

"We thought there were all three results still possible at the start," he said. "The first two balls today changed that, but credit to the way the guys batted - de Grandhomme curbed his instincts, Neil and Ish were heroic really. If it wasn't for them, putting their hand up and weathering the storm, bumps and bruises and all, this series result could have been so different. Fantastic to see that, credit to their character. Just so satisfying to come away with the series win.

"Emotions are running high, guys are pretty stoked in the sheds so it's a great way to finish the season which had a lot of white-ball cricket. The way the Test team performed was superb in a number of different situations."

That Test team is now ranked No. 3 in the world after leap-frogging Australia on the back of their hammering in Johannesburg. There can be no sweeter feeling for a New Zealander than to be above the Australians in a sporting table. But this home season has consisted of just four Tests and the 2018-19 summer is likely to be same with visits from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. When the team faces Pakistan later this year, it will be their first Test cricket overseas in two years.

"We've played four Tests this year, I think there's a little bit of frustration, guys want to play more Test cricket," Williamson said. "But it is what it is, a year without much Test cricket. We know the coming years have a lot more so it's about being patient. We've had so many great games against England. The team love playing Test cricket. As a Test team we are growing, and I think we've seen that in this series."

This team consists of some of New Zealand's finest ever Test players and some new heroes. For now they can bask in the glory of a significant series win, but they deserve not to be undersold.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo