Cricket: 'We thought we did just about the lot'

Nick Knight recalls the emotional trauma of Auckland and is ready for more
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The Independent Online
New Zealand were 105 for eight. They were still 26 runs behind. It was lunch on the final day of the First Test and we thought victory was in sight. We were being neither presumptuous nor arrogant. We knew we had to remain focused, that there was still work to be done.

But, still, we thought we would win. It would be wrong to say that anything else was on our minds. Two wickets to go, two balls would be enough to put us 1-0 ahead in a three-match series. It almost sounds simple. We sat and talked about how to capture those wickets, not taking them for granted but still positive that they would fall some time in the afternoon.

We kept on doing the things that had worked so well for us, which had brought us so many wickets so cheaply. The pitch was pretty dead. It offered little in terms of swing or seam. But we had taken early wickets with the new ball on the fourth day when New Zealand, with four sessions to bat, might just have backed themselves to survive.

On the last morning we got the break we needed with Nasser Hussain's inspirational piece of reflex fielding. His run out appeared to affect Adam Parore, who had called his captain Lee Germon for a misguided single. That damage having been done, Parore soon charged Phil Tufnell and was stumped. Suddenly we were reeling wickets off.

The ninth-wicket stand inserted a hiccup into proceedings. Nathan Astle and Simon Doull added enough runs to overtake our total. But there was no panic, no sense of the game being taken away from us. This kind of thing can happen. Doull played some shots, realising the ball was likely to be pitched up. But Darren Gough had the swinging yorker going well. Doull gone. One wicket left.

The range of emotions I went through over the next couple of hours was enormous. I knew I had to bat again but the likely target kept changing. Maybe 20 or 30 or 40 to win? Still no worries about the clock. Danny Morrison and Astle did not budge. You keep waiting for the edge or the mistake. Not much came towards the slips where I stood most of the afternoon. Not much went anywhere.

Our concentration was intense. We knew what we had to do. Get the wicket. It's in my nature to encourage and clap. How many would we be chasing? That's what I kept thinking between overs. They added some more runs. Morrison looked nerveless. We tried everything: slower balls, length balls, yorkers. The bowlers were rotated. Nothing happened. I thought of Bulawayo a month ago. Not again, surely. But such a scenario was looking increasingly probable. The last wicket would fall and we would be left to chase against the clock.

Tea came. Time was now slipping by. We knew we had to strike within 20 minutes of the resumption. Half an hour at most. Anything more and we simply wouldn't have enough overs. The wicket didn't fall. It hits you suddenly. This is a match we are not going to win. They've saved it. Against the odds, but they've done it.

Undeniably, Morrison and Astle batted well. They were stoic under pressure. Undeniably, England were deeply disappointed. One wicket wanted. The No 11 batsman at the crease. The dressing room was quiet. That was like Bulawayo. Morrison has a record number of 24 ducks in Test matches. It was a crumb of consolation to hear that he had gone in (at No 10, incidentally, to show that despite what's been said there must be at least one worse Test batsman) against Pakistan two years ago to face Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram in full cry and resisted them for two hours to make 42. But Pakistan won that match.

It was the length of time that they batted that still seems remarkable in retrospect. Could we have done more? Well, we thought we did just about the lot. Enough to win. Almost. Of course, New Zealand will be lifted by getting out of jail but there were good things for England from the match. We know we performed indifferently on the first morning but we fought back. Two players got centuries, our captain Mike Atherton batted himself judiciously back to form. Do not forget: England have not lost a Test match this winter. We regroup for Thursday.

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