Graeme Swann took six wickets and 10 in the match as England dodged the rain clouds hovering over Headingley to wrap up a 247-run second Test victory over New Zealand on Tuesday and secure a 2-0 series triumph.
New Zealand lost their last four men in murky conditions on the final day to be bowled out for 220 after surprisingly being asked to bat last in a game that appeared to be at England’s mercy much earlier before captain Alastair Cook declined to enforce the follow-on.
Cook batted again before declaring and setting New Zealand an improbable 468 to win, giving his bowlers the best part of five sessions to take 10 wickets.
“Tactically, we wanted some more wear into that pitch and you saw quite a few balls misbehaved, the rough getting deeper and deeper, and I think that proved pretty good tactics,” Cook told BBC radio. “If you’re nit-picking, with that last 45 minutes yesterday, you could have said we could have pushed on, but obviously we were pretty happy with the position we got ourselves in.”
England’s gameplan was nearly scuppered, though, by persistent light rain and delays on Tuesday.
Off-spinner Swann, who underwent elbow surgery in March, made the most of the breaks in the clouds to take six for 90 in the second innings and return match figures of 10-132, a huge boost for England ahead of the Ashes series against Australia starting in July.
Just 48 minutes of play were possible in the morning session, but any hopes that New Zealand had of holding off England while hoping for heavier rain to return were quickly lost when captain Brendon McCullum departed for 1.
McCullum skewed a low full toss from Stuart Broad back to the bowler, who took a sharp low catch.
Tim Southee, dropped when Jonathan Trott failed to grasp a sharp one-handed chance at first slip off Swann, fell to the same combination in the spinner’s next over.
Southee clubbed two sixes and four boundaries in his entertaining cameo before the drizzle returned to force an early lunch.
When play resumed, Ian Bell snaffled Doug Bracewell at silly point to give Swann his sixth wicket and then James Anderson secured victory when Trent Boult was caught behind, taking the paceman on to 307 wickets and level with Fred Trueman on England’s all-time list.
“We knew the weather was about, so we needed a couple of hours and the groundsman did a fantastic job,” Cook said. “It’s great to win 2-0, they were two good performances. I think we played better in this game than we did at Lord’s.”
England won the first Test by 170 runs and McCullum said the Black Caps had taken a “backward step” after a well-contested three-Test drawn series between the teams in New Zealand.
“We’re disappointed, as we had high hopes after a great series at home, but England put us under pressure and we weren’t able to respond,” McCullum said.
“We made some strides forward as a batting group at home, but we’ve taken steps backward here. Our bowlers have been outstanding, but our batters still have work to do, both individually and as a group,” he said.
The two sides now play three one-day internationals, with the first at Lord’s tomorrow.