Prior Hits 110 as England Avoids Cricket Defeat in New Zealand

Matt Prior scored an unbeaten century as England held on to draw the final cricket Test and avoid a first series defeat in New Zealand for almost 30 years.

Prior finished 110 not out with No. 11 batsman Monty Panesar on 2 as England, the No. 2 team in the Test rankings, reached 315-9 at stumps on the last day to tie the best-of-three contest 0-0. The first two matches ended in rain-affected draws.

Prior and Panesar survived the final 19 balls in Auckland today after part-time spin bowler Kane Williamson took two wickets in three balls to put eighth-ranked New Zealand, which last won a Test series between the teams in 1999, on the brink of a first home series victory against England since 1984.

“I’m not really one to celebrate draws, but to escape with that was a phenomenal effort,” Prior, who batted for 4 1/2 hours in scoring his seventh Test century, said in a televised interview. “To get over the line is unbelievable. You just dig in for as long as you can.”

England resumed the final day at 90-4 after being set a world record 481 runs for victory and entered the last session seven wickets down after Ian Bell got out for 75 following a six-hour stay at the crease. Stuart Broad scored six runs off 77 balls to help England bat out the draw.

“We gave it a red-hot crack but England were hellbent on making sure they didn’t lose a Test match,” said New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. “Although we didn’t get the result, the fighting effort we showed makes me incredibly proud.”

McCullum declared New Zealand’s second innings at 241-6 yesterday after Peter Fulton scored his second century of the match. The Black Caps scored 443 in the first innings before dismissing England for 204.

England Letoffs

Prior, who successfully challenged a leg-before-wicket decision when on 16 today, had another reprieve on 28 when a bouncer from Wagner hit his bat handle and helmet before falling onto the stumps without dislodging the bails.

Broad, who took 62 balls and 102 minutes to get off the mark, had a similar letoff on 2 when the ball brushed the leg stump after hitting his pad.

Williamson combined with Ross Taylor at slip to remove Broad and James Anderson in the fourth-last over and leave England at 304-9. Panesar survived five balls to help Prior, who struck 20 fours in his 182-ball innings, secure the draw.

The home team earlier broke a 60-run stand between Bell and Joe Root when Trent Boult’s first delivery with the second new ball trapped Root lbw for 29. In the final over before lunch, Dean Brownlie and Williamson dropped chances to remove Bell and Jonny Bairstow and leave England five wickets down.

Bell, Prior

Bairstow didn’t add to his total after the break, edging Tim Southee to Taylor to leave England at 159-6. Bell and Prior shared a 78-run stand before Neil Wagner ended Bell’s 271-ball innings as Southee took a catch in the last over before tea.

Williamson led New Zealand’s bowlers with 4-44, his best figures in elite five-day cricket, while Wagner and Southee each took two wickets.

“We are gutted,” Southee said. “To fight so hard for five days and come so close, a bit of luck would have been nice. Prior played one hell of an innings, along with Bell earlier.”

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