Monday, February 18, 2013

A meritorious win


New Zealand took first blood in the ODI series against England with a thrilling three-wicket win at Seddon Park in Hamilton last night. The Black Caps chased down England's score of 258, and as the English bowlers lost their composure in the closing overs, won with more than an over to spare; Cricinfo reports:

Martin Guptill, batting on one leg after a hamstring injury, helped his captain Brendon McCullum seal a nip-and-tuck chase in the opening ODI in Hamilton, as New Zealand squeezed home by three wickets with seven balls to spare. McCullum, who pushed himself down to No. 6, played a wonderfully paced innings, but kept losing partners to leave England with their noses in front until the final stages, when Guptill contributed vital boundaries to help limit his running.
There were three crucial mini passages of play in the final 12 overs after England had seemingly taken control at 155 for 5. James Anderson, who sent down eight world-class overs, was taken for 17 in his ninth when he started dropping short at McCullum. Then Guptill picked up 10 runs off his first two deliveries back at the crease - including a ramp over third man for six - which was followed by the decisive over, when Chris Woakes was taken for 13 off his last, with Guptill adding two further boundaries as he scored 24 from 10 balls after returning. Such was the adrenalin he sprinted off for runs in the seconds it took for the pain to register.
That left 13 needed off 12 balls. New Zealand only needed five more deliveries with McCullum clearing the midwicket boundary off Stuart Broad - all England's quicks bowled too short to him - before the limping Guptill hit the winning runs. New Zealanders talk of the 'Kiwi Spirit' and you will not see a better example as to what it actually means.
Guptill had retired hurt in sixth over after pulling up on completing a tight single to mid-off. He tried to carry on - without a runner as per the new regulations - but soon signalled he would have to leave the field. It was announced he would bat if required and with Kyle Mills - a capable lower-order player - still to come he shuffled back out to the middle for what may, depending on the seriousness of the injury, be his last contribution of the series.
McCullum's decision to hold himself back at the fall of Ross Taylor's wicket reignited the debate about where he should bat. There was already disquiet about him being as low as No. 5, but he is keen to be able to exploit the batting Powerplay and final 10 overs much in the way England try to use Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler. With a steely glint in his eye, and a never-say-die focus, he showed his judgement to be spot on. However, England will need a debrief over their tactics. 

Guptill's performance was fantastic. New Zealand needed 40 off 24 balls when he came back to the wicket, but he peppered the boundary (including the ramp shot for six pictured above), and only 17 of those balls were required. McCullum batted responsibly as wickets fell around him, then upped the pace as the overs ticked away. His was a mature, composed knock. And earlier Kane Williamson showed again that he is the future batting star for New Zealand until McCullum ran him out.

The New Zealand bowlers went well too. Mitchell McClenaghan began by knocking the impenetrable Alastair Cook over. Sadly, his day and his series ended with a side strain. Kyle Mills bowled with excellent control, and Nathan McCullum bowled a useful and frugal spell.

It was good to see Seddon Park not too far off being full; England is always a drawcard. As fate would have it, we have to go to Auckland on Friday, and to make that fate even worse, She Who Must Be Obeyed actually suggested a visit to the Garden of Eden on Saturday for the series finale. With the Black Caps' win last night, at the very least Saturday's match will be the series decider and it might even be for a series clean sweep. That pleases us greatly!

Well done New Zealand. The challenge now is to show some consistency with another strong performance in Napier on Wednesday. England will be better for last night's outing, but with three wins and a last-ball loss in their last four outings against very good sides, New Zealand is finally showing some form.

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