Black Caps captain Kane Williamson has hailed "the beauty of test cricket" after his side held on for a nailbiting draw on the final day of the first test against India in Kanpur.
The Black Caps finished on 165-9 in their fourth-innings quest for 284 to win, with debutant Rachin Ravindra and No 11 Ajaz Patel denying the Indian spinners for 29 minutes and 52 balls before the light faded enough to force the umpires to end the match in a draw.
Williamson, who had earlier batted for 112 balls as the Black Caps saw out 98 overs, was an interested yet nervous onlooker in the final overs, but was delighted with his team's fight to keep the two-match series level at 0-0.
"That's the beauty of test cricket really, where that can be a lot of excitement in a draw," Williamson said.
"The result was one ball away. It was a fantastic test match that had everything."
The Black Caps started the day at 4-1 needing a further 280 runs for victory, but Williamson admitted that a winning push never materialised.
"There weren't too many thoughts on that. Coming into the day, we were aware that all three results were still possible, but having said that there was a lot of hard work to try and do to give yourself a chance to chase, as opposed to trying to chase too early and finding yourself in a sticky position, so it was a matter of trying to take the day deep and then if we got close we would have had a crack if we were in the right position.
"We weren't in the end, and India were able to put us under pressure throughout the sessions, scoring was tough to come by and there was a lot of navigating variable bounce and balls that spun.
"If things did unfold ideally, then it would have been great to try and get close to the desired result, but going through that second session it was quickly off the cards and we saw a lot of contributions from guys where they really knuckled down and fought hard to get a draw in the end, so that was the next best thing."
Williamson was full of praise for his players – Tim Southee's bowling was "absolutely incredible", while Will Somerville's 110 balls of defiance as nightwatchman was "outstanding".
But the story of this match doesn't get told without plaudits for Ravindra and Patel.
"The two at the end – Rachin in his first test match and Ajaz as well, showed a lot of ticker to bat a few overs there against high-quality world-class spin as the light was dimming.
"[Rachin] brings an all-round package for us, he generally bats at the top of the order so having him in the side we felt helped strengthen the batting, and he bowled some valuable overs as well.
"An amazing experience for him to have in his first test match, and to be there at the end was something he'll remember for a long time."
Ultimately, Williamson's overriding emotions seemed to be excitement and appreciation for what his team had been a part of – playing out a thrilling finale in the longest format that underlined the beauty of the sport.
"It was some old-school test cricket trying to bat out a day and survive, which isn't seen all that often in recent years.
"It was good fun and nice to come away with the draw in the end."
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission