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Williamson, Taylor deny England series draw

Just ahead of the drinks break, on the fifth morning in Hamilton, England thought they’ve got the opening they’d been looking for. Jofra Archer saw Kane Williamson chip back a well-disguised knuckleball straight to short-midwicket. Archer took off in celebration, not realizing Joe Denly had shelled the easiest of chances. Not that it would have had any defining impact on the game, with weather destined to dash England’s hopes of a series parity if not the Williamson-Taylor combo that was going strong at 213 not out.

The New Zealand skipper was on 62 then and went on to raise his 21st Test century just after the Lunch break. In a race against the rain gods, Ross Taylor rushed into his 19th with back to back sixes off Joe Root. And, as if on cue, the heavens opened up just then, washing away any faint prospect of a result. Numbers-wise, New Zealand’s lead stood at 140 with all eight wickets in hand when the players were taken off, while it was England’s time for a wicketless session filled with milestones for the hosts.

Though they have only themselves to blame, Denly wasn’t the only one to drop Williamson. As early as in the fourth over of the morning, at a time when a wicket or two could have thrown the game wide open, Ben Stokes saw Ollie Pope miss a regulation ‘keeper’s catch behind the stumps. England’s new wicketkeeper was late to react and the New Zealand skipper got his first reprieve on 39.

Two balls later, Williamson swivel-pulled Stokes behind square for a boundary that wiped out their deficit. He then went on to register his 32nd Test fifty and the century of his partnership with Ross Taylor as he drove Curran past mid-off in his final over of the opening spell. Taylor caught up quickly in the next over, with the first of the two consecutive boundary hits off Stokes as England looked for a double bowling change.

The second half was an extension of the same – Williamson and Taylor trying to match each other shot for a shot while England grew desperate to break the partnership that went past 150 and also pushed New Zealand’s lead into triple figures. Joe Root did indulge in a desperate review when Williamson failed to connect his pull and the ball landed in Pope’s gloves. Replays only confirmed it hit Williamson’s helmet and indeed made no contact with the bat. Taylor, meanwhile, became only the second New Zealand batsman after Stephen Fleming to breach the 7000-run barrier in Test cricket, with his 83rd run in this knock.

The rain allowed Williamson and Taylor just enough time to reach their milestones in a match headed towards a stalemate.

Brief scores: New Zealand 375 (B Watling 105, D Mitchell 73; S Broad 4-73, C Woakes 3-83) and 241/2 (R Taylor 105*, K Williamson 104*; C Woakes 1-12) drew with England 476 (J Root 226, R Burns 101, O Pope 75; N Wagner 5-124).

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