An enterprising declaration by New Zealand on Sunday evening, holding out the carrot of a reachable target to England, set the stage yesterday for an intriguing finale to a women's tour that, at Test level, had seen neither side able to take the advantage.
In the 22nd encounter between the two countries, New Zealand were still searching for their first win. And the stage was indeed an attractive one - the tree-fringed club ground beneath the cathedral, with ranks of marquees in place for Surrey's visit tomorrow, under a cloudless sky.
In the first innings, England batted all Saturday and scored 242 for 8, so they knew that the necessary 311 required an extra gear. They started briskly enough, but lost three wickets in scoring 39. The bonus at this stage was another cameo innings of great promise by England's youngest ever debutante, 16-year-old Charlotte Edwards. Her batting will surely serve England as well as Huntingdon for many years.
More than cameos, however, were going to be required lower down the England order after a necessary period of caution. For a time, it seemed possible that the extent of England's ambitions was simply to deny the tourists that maiden victory.
In the afternoon, a stand of substance gradually developed between Sue Metcalfe anchoring the innings and the enterprising Jane Smit. The run- rate was clawed back, but the New Zealand captain, Sarah Illingworth, kept changing the permutation of her six bowlers, looking for any flaws in the flat wicket, and England could never settle.
The off-spin of Catherine Campbell was a particular nuisance to the home side - Smit was tucked up trying to cut, Debbie Stock misread the turn and Metcalfe, after some stern application, saw the ball trickle on to her stumps. It was an unjust end to a knock that might even have nursed England to victory.
Faced with defeat, it has been known for first-class counties to hoist the white flag. Indeed, points for a draw have been reintroduced to stiffen sinews on an otherwise hopeless last afternoon. But cricket is far too precious to these players for any such capitulations.
There was now nothing negative about England's desire for a draw - the last hour saw some stirring backs-to-the-wall stuff, with the rare loose ball still being treated forcefully, while New Zealand tried hard to cajole two more wickets from the turf.
In the final stages, all but two or three fielders were within sledging distance of the bat, but Suzanne Redfern and Clare Taylor survived heroically. The scorecard shows yet another draw, but this had been an enthralling, hard-fought and positive end to the series.Reuse content