I never doubted Panesar (but I couldn’t watch him), says Cook

 
Frank Dalleres
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CAPTAIN Alastair Cook admits he could not bear to watch the final three overs as England clung on to claim an unlikely draw in the decisive final Test against New Zealand yesterday.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior’s unbeaten century proved the cornerstone of a resilient second innings from the tourists, who started the final day in Auckland on 90-4 and drew all three matches of the series.

Prior successfully overturned an lbw decision and survived the ball hitting his stumps in the longest stint at the crease of his 65-Test career, before last man Monty Panesar helped see off the last 19 balls.

“I managed to watch pretty much all the day until the last 18 balls. You’d much rather be out in the middle than to be a hopeless spectator,” said Cook.

“Ian Bell started it off yesterday, he was there batting six hours. Then Matty Prior, that was a great hundred. We talked about someone being a hero and he took that mantle on.

“I’ve seen Monty in those situations before and I wouldn’t want anyone else there. He’s done it twice now and he’s got through twice. It’s a 100 per cent record.”

Panesar’s brief stint recalled his match-saving innings in Cardiff during the 2009 Ashes series, and Prior revealed he cajoled the erstwhile spinner with memories of that match.

“We mentioned the Ashes, we mentioned Cardiff. He was really chilled out,” said Prior. “My role is to help him with game plans, tell him this is what they’re going to do, this is how they’re going to try to get you out.”

England lost Joe Root (29) before lunch and Jonny Bairstow (6) shortly after, and Ian Bell’s (75) departure signalled the start of a Prior (110 not out) and Stuart Broad (6) rearguard action.

THIRD TIME LUCKY

■ England yesterday became only the third team to salvage a draw having gone into the final day of a Test match with four wickets down

■ South Africa achieved the same feat last year in Australia, debutant Faf Du Plessis hitting 110no off 376 balls to save the second Test

■Michael Atherton was the hero first time round, the former England captain’s unbeaten 185 denying South Africa in Johannesburg in 1995