In sport it’s not always the best teams that produce the great memorable games for instance United v Liverpool, or England v Wales in the rugby. The better matches can sometimes come from two teams with no obvious rivalry. The perfect example of this is England vs New Zealand in cricket and in the last twenty years they have produced some of the most scintillating back and forth cricket matches in recent times. Here we look at ten of them since the year 2000, how many of them do you remember and where you were at the time?
- Nearly Nathan Astle, Christchurch 2002.
First on our list is way back in 2002 which would have been hard to dislodge from the top spot of all time test matches had Astle had some support on the final day. At the time he broke the record for the fastest double hundred coming of 155 balls as he took New Zealand within 100 runs of their unlikely victory target of 550. An England bowling attack of which half would go onto become heroes in 2005 were sent to all parts of the stands as Astle produced an innings that even a modern day T20 specialist would be proud of.
Earlier on in the Test Match Graham Thorpe scored a double hundred of his own along with Andrew Flintoff who stamped his authority on test cricket for the first time with a well deserved century. This test match though defiantly belongs to Astle as I’m sure Andy Caddick still wakes up in cold sweats now and again at the thought of being wacked over his head for six for the third time in as many deliveries.
- A fond farewell, Lords 2004.
A famous summer for English cricket as England won every test match and number two on our list is the curtain raiser at Lords. A close affair throughout with the debutant Andrew Strauss helping England gain a first innings lead, however New Zealand didn’t crumble and with top order runs from Richardson and a fresh faced McCullum they set England a difficult final day chase of 280.
With England two down for not very many it came down to two people who were at opposite ends of their careers in Strauss and Hussain. Strauss looking nailed on for two hundreds on debut but was comically run out by his partner in the 80s. Hussain thankfully was able to get to his century in his final innings for England and with Thorpe they steered England home for a famous victory in front of a near full Lords.
- If only there was a way to find a winner, Napier 2008.
If I asked you to name the two England openers who put on 158 for the opening stand you probably wouldn’t have said Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard. The unlikely pair whose opening innings wouldn’t have been out of place today crashed it around and with the support from Collingwood whose 50 consisted of six sixes England made 340.
Jamie How’s faster then ran a ball century got New Zealand within touching distance but they only managed one of the final ball to tie the match. Collingwood had a half chance to run the batsmen out to win the game but in the end they had to share the spoils leaving England unable to win the series. If only there was a way to separate them???
At the end of a brilliant day in Napier Graeme Swann in his book talks about this day when the relationship between Moores and Pietersen first started to crack. Moores suggested that instead of having a beer they should go out and warm down to psych out New Zealand for the next match. This didn’t go down well with the team and it led to a relationship that never recovered.
- A brave new world, Napier 2008.
By the time 2008 had rolled by the shine from three years earlier was beginning to fade and change was afoot. Having lost the opening test match England decided to take the plunge on two fresh faces in Broad and Anderson. With this selection you can probably pinpoint the birth of the 2010/11 Ashes winning side that went to number one in the world. Andrew Strauss returned to much needed form with a career saving 177 as he was probably on last chance saloon.
That knock from Strauss set up New Zealand needing over 500 to win and although they fought their way to over 400 England won and turned round the series. It was their first away series victory since South Africa at the start of 2004.
- Super Monty in Manchester, Old Trafford 2008.
With the series in the balance New Zealand batted well first time round with Ross Taylor making an unbeaten 154. England struggled in reply with only Strauss making any sort of contribution and they only narrowly avoided the follow on. England needed a hero to step up and save the match so cue stage right Monty Panesar.
On the third day (which I happened to be at age 12) Monty spun a web all over the Kiwi batsmen and dragged England back into the match taking his 100th test match wicket in the process. After he had finished the rest of the match was nothing more than a formality with Strauss’s 106 helping England chase down the victory target.
- Oh dear Mr Collingwood, The Oval 2008.
Following on from the test series which England won in 2008 the ODI series threatened to be a bit closer and that proved to be as the sides were locked 1-1 going into the 4th match. England had appeared to have fluffed their lines batting first as they plodded along in very typical fashion to 245 all out.
The pitch may have not been as easy to bat on as it first appeared as a blonde haired Graeme Swann spun the ball devilishly and New Zealand struggled to pick him. With the game finally poised the batsmen in Grant Elliot looked to steal a single of Ryan Sidebottom but the two of them didn’t see each other as Sidebottom went after the ball causing Grant Elliot to be run out by almost the full 22 yards. Collingwood was asked very clearly if he would like to appeal for the run out which he accepted to the disgust of the New Zealand players.
The match was finely poised when Swann bowled a maiden for the penultimate over to keep England in the contest. Swann’s luck wouldn’t hold though as by trying to win the game with a run out of the last delivery he inadvertently through it passed the stumps and New Zealand won from the over throws.
- ‘Monty you’ve dived to early’, Auckland 2013.
The match and series weren’t particularly anything to shout about from an England or the Groundsman’s perspective as the series finished 0-0. On the final day however it looked like New Zealand might be able to pull off an unlikely victory. Matt Prior was playing the innings of his career which was not without luck but he just needed someone to stay with him.
Stuart Broad provided the most useful partner as he didn’t manage to get off the mark until his 53rd delivery. Eventually his resistance was broken and the first of the Cardiff hero’s came in Jimmy Anderson who strode out into the middle. He though only lasted two balls as Kane Williamson’s part time off-spin was doing the damage and the last man in Monty Panesar was suddenly taking strike.
With just a matter of balls left Panesar whilst trying to get of strike dived for his ground, however he hadn’t got his timings right and ended having to crawl on his hands and knees for the final part of the run. In the end Matt Prior secured England a draw at the end of a long winter.
- Moving on at last, Lords 2015.
For the previous 18 months leading up to the 2015 summer English cricket had been left feeling a little bit sorry for itself. The sacking of Kevin Pietersen, the tragic World Cup campaign and the sacking’s of Paul Downton and Peter Moores had all left a rather big cloud. What we really needed was a good news story and what a good one we got in the form of one of the best test matches ever at Lords.
The key to a good test match is the quality players on both sides to step up which certainly happened here as Cook, Root, Williamson and Boult all put in top performances. This test match though belongs to Ben Stokes who on the 4th day (again I was their) racked up the fastest century at Lords and then the following day bowled England to victory.
It was a real coming of age performance that showed the rest of us the future was bright. It inspired twenty thousand people to come down to Lords on the Monday and the following week Headingley had a boost in ticket sales. The first sightings of the Stokes affect.
- We could win the world cup? Durham 2015.
Now the much documented rise from the Ashes of their dismal World Cup campaign in 2015 for England started against New Zealand. In a series where records were broken and everyone was left wondering how you could go from being so bad to being so good came down to a nail biting conclusion in Durham.
England’s chase was first cut short by the weather and then by some really good Kiwi bowling that blew away England’s batting line up. Bairstow who had come in for the final match in replacement of the injured Buttler smashed his best knock for England by quite some way at the time. He was well supported by Billings and some questionable death bowling and fielding helped them get over the line.
The finish saw wild celebrations and genuine pride in an England one day team that had never been seen before. Generally with great cricket matches you can always remember where you were when they were taking place which is casing point with all five matches of this series.
- 26-17. Lords 2019.
You can almost hear the ICC official confidently explain at a meeting that it doesn’t matter how you decide the winner after a tied super over because it will never happen. In the end England won the biggest match of the list 26-17 on boundaries scored in the World Cup final. Everyone will forever hear the words “by the barest of margins” spoken by the brilliant Ian Smith as Jos Buttler takes the bails of to win the match.
A fitting conclusion as no England fan will ever forget the day when cricket became cool and hopefully set it on much more positive path. As for New Zealand they will hope it’s third time lucky in World Cup finals because almost everything went wrong for them in the final hour or so and they still so nearly got there.
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