England men’s team have won many a game from some miraculous positions in their 52 Test matches played at Edgbaston. The seven wicket win over this year’s returning visitors New Zealand is certainly up there as one of the best.
When Alex Tudor walked out to bat as the nightwatchman after just five balls of England’s second innings, victory seemed a distant thought. Bundled out for just 125 in the first innings, 208 runs required for victory and with confidence very low, with several members of the team having been part of the disastrous home ICC men’s Cricket World Cup campaign, it would certainly take something special to win.
England presented Leicestershire’s Aftab Habib and Nottinghamshire’s Chris Read with their first Test caps before play at Edgbaston as a reward for their excellent form in the county game. They would take to the field immediately after New Zealand’s impressive skipper Stephen Fleming won the toss and elected to bat first.
However, the visitors made a disastrous start as the Warwickshire treble and double winner Roger Twose marked the return to his old ground by edging Alan Mullally to Graham Thorpe at first slip in just the third ball of the Test.
With the ever-exuberant Edgbaston crowd in great voice, England enjoyed a splendid morning as they reduced New Zealand to 104 for six shortly after lunch. However, wicket-keeper Adam Parore (73) received useful support from Chris Cairns and Dion Nash to help the Blackcaps to a more respectable first innings score of 226 to end the first day.
In response, England made also made a torrid start with Stewart trapped lbw by left-arm seamer Geoff Allott for one, in the third over of the innings. Shortly afterwards, a terrible mix-up between Butcher and captain Hussain led to the Surrey batsman being run out for 11.
England were soon staring down the barrel at 45 for seven before an eighth wicket partnership of 80 between Caddick (33) and Tudor (32*) significantly reduced the deficit.
Tailenders Mullally and Tufnell soon followed Caddick’s departure as England were all out for 126 in the 47th over of the day. Sadly former Warwickshire batsman Twose didn’t see his Test improve at his beloved Edgbaston as he completed his pair in the first ball of New Zealand’s second innings.
Mullally and Caddick, buoyed by the Edgbaston roar, ripped through the visitors’ top and middle order to leave them tottering at 52 for eight at the end of 24th over.
Skipper Fleming (25) and seamer Doull (46) demonstrated some resistance by adding 54 for the ninth wicket. However, once the skipper departed, only one more run was added to the New Zealand second innings of 107 all out; 208 required for the hosts with more than three days of play to go.
Caddick finished with figures of five for 42, Mullally with three for 48 and Tufnell picking up two wickets for seven runs off just 2.1 overs. Stewart’s departure just five balls into the chase, and on the verge of stumps on the second day, meant that a staggering 21 wickets had fallen on the second day.
Tudor was elected nightwatchman in order to reward Caddick for his fine performance in helping dismiss the Blackcaps for a target that, whilst unlikely, was in range.
It proved to be an inspired choice from Hussain, who was captaining England for the first time.
The Surrey seamer survived the one ball required on the second evening and came out with intent on the third morning, adding 73 with Butcher (33) in a little under 17 overs.
Having added a further 98 runs for the third wicket before captain Hussain was bowled by Allott for 44, England were on the brink of victory with just 34 runs required for victory.
Graham Thorpe matched Tudor stroke for stroke to reach a run-a-ball 21 not out and with Tudor sat on 95, with England needing just one run to win, could the most unlikely of centuries happen?
Tudor’s eyes lit up when a short ball from the part-time seamer Craig McMillan presented itself from the City, now Birmingham, End. However, unjust for the fantastic cuts, cover drives and leg glances that had preceded, it was a mistimed pull shot that sailed over the head of Adam Parore that went for four, took Tudor to 99 not out and secured another great victory for England at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’.
Deservedly named player of the match, Tudor’s innings came from 119 balls and included 21 fours. He would go on to play 10 Tests for England in a career perhaps cruelly curtailed by injury. However, he would make two centuries in an excellent county career with Surrey, which saw him win multiple trophies.
Perhaps the best nightwatchman innings ever seen at Edgbaston? Former Warwickshire quick Chris Wright would certainly give an opinion on that given how much he relished the end of day battles with the bat. However, for England it certainly remains the best.
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