Cricket a big winner after enthralling series in New Zealand, says Steve Harmison

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Steve Harmison felt cricket was one of the biggest winners after an “enthralling” Test series between England and New Zealand concluded in remarkable fashion.

New Zealand won one of the tightest games in Test history on Tuesday after beating England by one run in Wellington, Neil Wagner sealing victory when he had James Anderson caught down the legside.

That saw England, chasing 258 for a 2-0 series win, bowled out for 256 to become only the fourth team ever to lose after enforcing the follow-on, joining the Australian sides of 1894, 1981 and 2001.

England captain Ben Stokes had put New Zealand back in with side his holding a 226-run first-innings lead, but the Kiwis roared back on day five to salvage a 1-1 series draw after the in-form tourists had won the first Test by 267 runs in Mount Maunganui.

Former fast bowler Harmison, who was centre-stage when England won a similarly-dramatic game during the 2005 Ashes, said on TalkSport’s ‘Following On’ podcast: “New Zealand may have won this Test match, but I think cricket was a winner, close second.

“It’s hard to get your head round what’s just happened, not only in this Test match, but in this series – every single session, every single hour has been so enthralling with both sides wanting to have a go and trying to play positively.

“This Test match has been no different – 21 for three in the first innings for both sides, England making sure they keep holding the advantage and taking the positive route by making New Zealand follow-on and then right at the very end, England had won it, (then) they’d lost it. New Zealand had thrown it away, England had come back into it…”

Harmison heaped praise on Wagner for his role in the win, the veteran seamer finishing with figures of four for 62 including the valuable wickets of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope and then last man Anderson.

Harmison added: “Right at the very end, when a lot of people were questioning Neil Wagner – never have a go at a great character, a great man and a desire to always wanting to win.

“For me he was the difference in that last half-hour with his aggressive bowling style, he didn’t get it all quite right.”

New Zealand’s win evoked memories of England’s famous success against Australia at Edgbaston 18 years ago, when Michael Kasprowicz fended a Harmison bouncer to Geraint Jones for the hosts to snatch a two-run victory.

Harmison added: “I did experience something very similar with the short ball right at the end of another enthralling Test match.

“Spare a thought to Jack Leach and Jimmy Anderson there because it’s not nice when you’re the tail-end batsman that goes out there and you’re the last wicket, but full credit to New Zealand, they were absolutely magnificent.”

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