DUNEDIN — New Zealand's hopes of winning the first test against England were dashed by the bulldog spirit of nightwatchman Steven Finn who batted almost six hours to steer the match to a draw on Sunday.
No. 8-ranked New Zealand had the better of No.2-ranked England through most of a match and still had hopes of victory when it led by 59 at the start of the final day.
But Finn, unheralded as a batsmen, started before stumps on the fourth day and batted until after tea on Sunday to dull New Zealand's thrust for victory, reaching his first half century in tests or first class cricket.
England was 431-6 when stumps were drawn, leading by 128 with Ian Bell 26 and Matt Prior 23.
While England's fightback, after trailing by 293 runs on first innings, was set up by openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton who both made centuries, it was Finn who sealed the draw.
He came to the wicket when Cook was dismissed for 116 late on day four and batted resolutely, almost chancelessly, into the match's final session. When he was out and England lost the wicket of Joe Root for a duck soon afterwards, New Zealand's hopes rose briefly.
But Bell and Prior batted England on to a lead of 128 and when drinks were taken in the final session, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum shook hands and accepted the draw. The second test starts at Wellington on Thursday.
"From the moment we stepped onto the field to the moment we stepped off it we showed the heart and the characteristics we want to be known for," McCullum said.
"There were some outstanding debuts. Hamish Rutherford's 171 on debut was something not just he but everyone at the ground will remember for a long time. And Bruce Martin as well bowled well.
"The bowlers' effort over the last two days was phenomenal. They just kept coming in hard and kept trying and we never gave up the belief that we'd be able to get the job done."
Finn defied that belief. He formed partnerships of 34 for the second wicket with Nick Compton, who was out for 117, then 90 for the third wicket with Jonathan Trott, who was dismissed in the second session for 52.
Kevin Pietersen, looking out of form, was out for 12 as New Zealand's bowlers battled hard in unhelpful conditions.
Finn had occupied the crease for almost six hours by tea. He eclipsed his previous best test score of 19 and posted his first half century in either test or first class cricket, not with alacrity but with hard-nosed defiance of the New Zealand attack.
Trott beat Finn to 50, posting his 14th half century in tests in 101 minutes from 78 balls with 8 fours, reaching the mark with a firm shot through mid-wicket. Finn proceeded his more memorable milestone in 4 hours, 23 minutes, from 142 balls and with his fifth boundary, an edge through slips.
Tall, with a long reach, he got well forward and met straight deliveries with the full face of his bat. He coped just as well with shorter deliveries which climbed without any real venom, swaying or ducking away and occasionally putting a wider ball away for runs.
Trott was undone by one of the few deliveries that bounced unexpectedly, sparring a return catch to Neil Wagner who worked hard and claimed all three wickets to fall before tea.
Wagner first had Compton lbw for 117, removed Trott with a ball which reared from just short of a length, then had Pietersen (12) caught by wicketkeeper B.J. Watling.
England was able to build on the foundation laid by the centuries of Cook and Compton as it erased the 293-run first-innings lead.
Compton — grandson of the great Denis Compton — built only a little on his maiden century, taking his score on to 117 before being trapped lbw by Wagner.
Wagner bowled an exceptional 43 overs in England's second innings and finished with 3-141.