Alastair Cook’s nerves were so shredded by England’s great escape at Eden Park that he could not bear to watch the final three overs as Matt Prior and Monty Panesar defied New Zealand.
For the fourth time since July, 2009, at the start of that summer’s Ashes victory, England hung on with nine wickets down to somehow salvage a Test match stalemate.
This time, it came on the final evening of the series for good measure – Prior’s unbeaten 110 the outstanding performance but No 11 Panesar’s occasionally comical assistance plus determined innings, too, from Ian Bell and Stuart Broad also part of an unlikely last chapter.
Cook, who has witnessed all of those close shaves yet been unable to affect any from the dressing-room, managed the tension until Broad and then James Anderson were out in the space of three balls to Kane Williamson.
At that point enough was enough for the long-suffering captain, who retreated to a dark corner and relied on fitness coach Huw Bevan and England No 3 Jonathan Trott to relay an ad-hoc commentary – with replays to follow.
“I was pretty good for the majority of it,” he said, drawing breath after Prior and Panesar had kept England’s last wicket intact for three overs to close on 315-9 and secure a 0-0 drawn series. “I watched 95 per cent of it – the last 18 balls I didn’t watch, but I was having a running commentary.
“I sat in one place the whole day. Then we lost Broady, and I thought that position had run out of luck – so I thought I’d move.”
Cook is grateful for Trott and Bevan’s efforts, but does not see a future for either in ball-by-ball broadcast commentary.
The amateur pair were tested especially when Panesar contrived to dive several yards before he needed to and had to paddle his way over the line at the non-striker’s end to complete what should have been a routine single to get Prior back on strike against Williamson (4- 44).
Cook had already spent six hours willing his team on, after they got themselves into a tough spot at 90-4 at the start of play in theoretical pursuit of 481 to win.
“It was quite a nerve-wracking day, when you can’t do anything about it,” he added.
Bell (75) dug in for almost six hours, and Broad batted against type to use up 61 balls before he even made a run.
But it was wicketkeeper-batsman Prior’s seventh Test century which was England’s saviour.
“Matt Prior’s knock was just outstanding,” said Cook before adding: “We haven’t played as well as we needed to win a Test series. That’s the bottom line.”