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Wagner bounces New Zealand to innings victory

New Zealand's Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket of England's Mark Stoneman on the fourth day of their Test at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday. AFP
New Zealand's Neil Wagner celebrates the wicket of England's Mark Stoneman on the fourth day of their Test at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday. AFP

Wagner bounces New Zealand to innings victory

Neil Wagner bounced New Zealand to a comprehensive victory against England in the first Test in Auckland on Monday, taking the key wicket of Ben Stokes as he fought for a draw.

The hosts now head to the second and final Test starting in Christchurch on Friday in buoyant mood, confident that they are tough to beat on home pitches.

New Zealand have now won seven and drawn two of their past 10 home matches, while England’s disappointing away record has stretched to 12 matches without a win.

There were times on the final day of this Test when Stokes threatened to repeat the heroic performance of Matt Prior, whose century on the same ground on the same day five years ago salvaged a draw for England.

But after facing 188 deliveries for a patient 66, Stokes lost his composure in the midst of a Wagner barrage and clipped a bouncer to Tim Southee at point.

Stokes’s dismissal, after his first substantial innings since his return from exile, ended what little hope England had of saving the Test after they were rolled for 58 in their first innings.

They started their second innings 369 in arrears after New Zealand had declared on 427 for eight.

Stokes ‘a big wicket’

“We were confident, but we knew it would be hard work,” skipper Kane Williamson said after New Zealand completed the rout with under 19 overs to spare in a Test where almost two full days were lost to rain.

“[Stokes] was a big wicket. He was playing very, very well, an innings that perhaps wasn’t to his true nature in terms of the stroke player that he is and he knuckled down and batted a long period of time and kept us out for a long time,” Williamson said.

“It was a brilliant match for our team in all departments. The first innings was the perfect storm. The boys put the ball in the perfect area . . . and the way the boys built those partnerships with the bat was very pleasing.”

New Zealand’s innings featured an unbeaten 145 by Henry Nicholl and 102 from Williamson. But Stokes’s 66 was the best England could produce in two turns at bat.

Stokes, out just on dinner, was one of three England batsmen dismissed in the last over before a break.

Joe Root was out on the last ball before stumps on Sunday and Moeen Ali was removed in the last over of the first session on Monday.

‘Still very raw’

Williamson described the three wickets as “big moments”, while England captain Root depicted them as part of the difference between the sides.

“We stood up and showed some resolve [in the second innings] and they continued to put us under pressure, and you have to give them credit. It is very disappointing and it’s another thing we need to start improving on,” Root said.

“Obviously it was a massive task coming back from the start we had in that first innings, which was bitterly disappointing, and we were always fighting our way back in the game.

“We need to be better when we get to Christchurch.”

But Root would not be drawn on whether any changes were likely in the line-up.

“There’s a lot of emotion knocking around now. It’s still very raw,” he said when asked if changes were likely.

“I think it’s important we have some rational thinking behind that and we sit down and I’m sure we will go into that Test match with the XI we think is going to win the game.”

It was only the 10th time New Zealand have beaten England in the 102-Test history between the two sides.

The final session started with New Zealand just three wickets short of victory, while England needed a further 69 runs to make New Zealand bat again.

Chris Woakes, who featured in an 83-run stand with Stokes, made 52 before falling to Wagner – and Mark Stoneman scored 55 earlier in the innings along with Root’s 51 – but there was little else for the tourists to enthuse over.

Wagner, Todd Astle and Trent Boult each finished with three wickets.

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