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Best of the Tests at Eden Park

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Eden_Park_Test_New_Zealand_CricketThe ongoing historic day-night contest between New Zealand and England is the 50th Test to be played at Auckland’s Eden Park. Even though New Zealand have a passable record at the venue – they have won 9 and lost 16 of the 49 Tests played there so far – it holds a special significance for them. Their first ever Test win was achieved here, against the West Indies in 1955-56. Here is a trip down memory lane to revisit five of the best Test matches that Eden Park has hosted.

New Zealand v West Indies, First Test, 1968-69

New Zealand were stopped in their tracks by a magnificent innings from Seymour Nurse, who was playing his last series. Bob Taylor’s enterprising 124 from number eight helped the hosts recover from 152/6 to 323 after the West Indies elected to field. Opener Joey Carew (109) and Nurse (95) carried the visitors to a healthy position of 197/1 with a second-wicket alliance of 172, but the rest of the batsmen caved in meekly, handing New Zealand a first-innings lead of 47.

Graham Dowling, who top-scored with 71, declared early on the final (fourth) day to set the West Indies a testing target of 345. Nurse, batting at number three, rose to the occasion, scoring a stroke-filled 168 and sharing 174 for the third wicket with Basil Butcher (78*), a stand that put paid to New Zealand’s hopes. The West Indies reached 348/5, completing what was then the second highest successful Test chase. Nurse logged 558 runs at 111.60 in the three-Test series.  

New Zealand v England, First Test, 1996-97

An England win looked inevitable at lunch on the final day, but an extraordinary rearguard effort resulted in a miraculous escape for the hosts. New Zealand’s first innings revolved around a maiden Test century from the 23-year-old Stephen Fleming (129), who put on 118 with Chris Cairns (67) for the sixth wicket. England was served well by captain Michael Atherton (83) and stumper Alec Stewart, who shared 182 for the second wicket after the early loss of Nick Knight.

Stewart went on to score a masterly 173, after which Graham Thorpe (119) took control of the proceedings. Thorpe and Dominic Cork (59) further deflated the bowling attack by adding 114 for the sixth wicket. The innings terminated at 521 by tea on the fourth day, giving New Zealand four sessions to stay alive in the game. By stumps, they were wobbling at 56/3. Things only worsened in the first session on day five, as New Zealand slumped to 105/8, still behind by 16.

When Simon Doull was the ninth man out, New Zealand’s lead was only 21. Out came Danny Morrison - with a tally of 24 Test ducks - to join Nathan Astle, and they went on to script one of the finest rescue acts in Test history. Astle scored a gutsy 102*, while Morrison dead-batted for 14* in 133 balls. The final scalp proved elusive for England, as the tenth-wicket pair saved the day by putting on 106* in 166 minutes. Incidentally, this was to be Morrison’s last Test match.

New Zealand v West Indies, First Test, 2005-06

New Zealand pocketed a closely-fought Test that ebbed and flowed throughout. Scott Styris’ counterattacking 103* propelled the hosts from a troubled 69/4 to 275. In reply, the West Indies lost five for 90, before Ramnaresh Sarwan (62) and Dwayne Bravo (59) ensured that New Zealand’s lead was limited to 18. New Zealand were struggling in their second innings at 146/7, when another lower-order revival came to the fore, this time led by Brendon McCullum (74).

Set 291 to win, the West Indies batted themselves into a position of strength with their opening pair of Chris Gayle (82) and Darren Ganga (95), who put on a stand of 148, before the former’s dismissal to Nathan Astle induced a meltdown. Shane Bond (5/69) got into the act, nailing Sarwan and Lara off consecutive balls, as New Zealand turned the tide. The West Indies failed to claw back, and were bowled out 28 runs short of their target early on the fifth day.  

New Zealand v England, Third Test, 2012-13

With the series locked at 0-0, there was all to play for in this deciding Test. A first Test hundred from opener Peter Fulton (136), playing his first series in over three years, and his second-wicket stand of 181 with Kane Williamson (91) lifted New Zealand to 443 after England won the toss. Paceman Steven Finn bowled his heart out, collecting 6/125. The Kiwi fast bowlers, led by Trent Boult (6/68), reduced England to 72/5 before Matt Prior (73) rallied to take the total to 204.

The hosts slipped to 8/3 in the second dig, but Fulton (110) registered another ton to put them back on track. With this, he became only the fourth New Zealander to score hundreds in each innings of a Test. An attacking 67* from captain Brendon McCullum further swelled New Zealand’s lead, before he declared at 241/6 in the second session of the fourth day, setting England an improbable target of 481. England fell to 90/4 by stumps, and faced a grim battle for survival.

Ian Bell batted for nearly six hours to compile 75. Even then, when he was seventh out at 237, there were close to 33 overs left. Prior (110*) and Stuart Broad got together at this point, and consumed 29 overs until Broad was out to Williamson - he took a record 103 minutes to score his first run. James Anderson perished two balls later, which meant the last pair had to see off 19 deliveries. Amid palpable tension, Prior and Monty Panesar ensured that England ended at 315/9.      

New Zealand v India, First Test, 2013-14

India came threateningly close to hunting down a stiff target in what was a highly fascinating Test. New Zealand were in trouble at 30/3 on the first morning after being inserted, before Kane Williamson (113) and captain Brendon McCullum carted the bowlers around during a game-changing fourth-wicket stand of 221. McCullum went on to score an astounding 224 as his team piled up 503 (Ishant Sharma 6/134). In reply, New Zealand’s pacers condemned India to 202.

It could have been worse if not for Rohit Sharma (72), as the score read 10/3 at one stage. India themselves attempted a comeback through their fast bowlers, who bundled New Zealand out for 105. Chasing 407, India appeared on course for a stunning win at 222/2, with Shikhar Dhawan (115) and Virat Kohli (67) sharing 126 for the third wicket. But the tireless Neil Wagner removed both batsmen to peg India back, paving the way for a New Zealand victory by 40 runs.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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