• New Zealand v England, 2nd ODI, Napier

Impressive England level series

The Report by Alan Gardner
February 20, 2013 « Pistorius' legal team launches heated defence | Chartbeat test »

England 270 for 2 (Cook 78, Root 79*) beat New Zealand 269 (Taylor 100, McCullum 74, Anderson 5-34) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

England marched to a business-like eight-wicket win in Napier, completing their second-highest successful run chase against New Zealand in the process, to square the series at 1-1 after an unruly burst from Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum had threatened Alastair Cook's masterplan. Cook and Jonathan Trott made solid half-centuries, while Joe Root twinkled with impudent brilliance in top-scoring with an unbeaten 79 but it was James Anderson's 5 for 34 that set up victory on an excellent batting surface.

Having asked his bowlers to keep New Zealand to a manageable total, Cook was rewarded with early wickets and a modest run rate, only for Taylor's seventh ODI hundred to provide a rallying standard and McCullum to launch a familiar riposte. The fifth-wicket stand threatened to take the game away but after McCullum holed out off Stuart Broad for 74 the last six wickets fell for 26 runs, as England regained control of the scenario.

Their combined aggression with the bat, putting on 100 in 52 balls, had brought New Zealand back into the game but both McCullum and Taylor put down straightforward chances off Root. The first, a skier to McCullum, came when Root, on 25, top-edged an attempted pull at Tim Southee towards short fine leg and although the wicketkeeper made his ground, he misjudged the trajectory and failed to get his gloves under the ball. The next delivery, Root ramped the ball for a flat four through the same part of the ground and the fuse had been lit: 12 balls later, he had reached his fifty, accelerating past senior team-mate Jonathan Trott like a Yorkshire roadrunner.

His innings blended grace and power, with hefty cuts and pulls offset by delicate flicks and cultured drives. The man whose place in the side he currently occupies, Kevin Pietersen, would have been pleased with such a contribution, as Root and Trott combined for a decisive 121-run stand to continue the trend of reverses that has seen the teams swap victories over five limited-overs contests on the tour so far.

Not only did Root upstage the contributions of his own team-mates, in what was an improved all-round display, he also overshadowed Taylor's first significant score since coming back into the New Zealand team. After a slow start, in which New Zealand were 21 for 2 after the opening Powerplay and only reached their 100 in the 30th over, McCullum whirled about the crease with all the violence of a Quentin Tarantino shootout scene while Taylor, more the Gary Cooper type, calmly knocked it around at the other end.

Discussions about Taylor's form had begun to overshadow the positive of his return, so this was an important innings for the New Zealand No. 4, even if it came in defeat. In his four previous innings, he had made 45 runs but here he progressed to his first international half-century since scoring 142 and 74 in his last match as captain, the Colombo Test in November. His ousting may still smart on a personal level but the detente can only be good for McCullum, Taylor's replacement, who will head to Auckland seeking a victory that would give him back-to-back ODI series wins at the start of his tenure.

Taylor's first boundary came via a back-foot punch through the covers off Broad and, after a level-headed stand of 72 with Kane Williamson, he began to add some impetus, slugging Broad over deep midwicket for the first six and then sweeping Graeme Swann hard in front of square. He was joined in the middle by McCullum five balls into the batting Powerplay, after Grant Elliott had top-edged Steven Finn to deep square leg, and the pair were soon exchanging fist bumps in the middle. Should they reach the level of the brotherly bum-tap anytime soon, then all will be considered well within New Zealand cricket.

McCullum's fifty came from 26 balls - and that included just a single from his first seven - as Swann, Chris Woakes and then Broad were each targeted in succession. Swann's final over disappeared for 17 and included a six so dismissive that McCullum managed to crash the ball over extra-cover even as he slipped and lost his footing; Woakes and Broad then went for 21 and 20 respectively. England had been criticised for bowling too short at McCullum in the series so far but he tore up their plans to go full, as Broad was twice thumped down the ground in searching for the yorker.

Such was the volte face in scoring rates, that while the two opening bowlers, Finn and Anderson, went at less than three-and-a-half an over, the other three all conceded above six. The last time these two teams met at Napier, they split 680 runs precisely down the middle, with Luke Wright keeping New Zealand to six off the final over to force a tie. Paul Collingwood, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Owais Shah and Wright all bowled that day, exactly five years ago, but Anderson was the most expensive, with 1 for 86.

How things have changed. Anderson, fresh from passing Sir Ian Botham as England's leading wicket-taker in international cricket, had talked of bowling until he was 40 before the match. You suspect even as an Oldsmobile he would cruise in smoothly and more experienced drivers than BJ Watling have nicked to first slip pushing at Anderson's length ball, which just veered away enough to take the edge in the seventh over. Hamish Rutherford, on debut, also fell early to Anderson, as the new-ball pair denied the batsmen width.

Finn was trotting in off a shorter run-up in an attempt to cure his knock-knee problem but showed no lack of pace and perhaps a touch more control - though he still managed to clip the stumps at the non-striker's end later in the innings. McCullum cracked the delivery for four and Cook received short shrift when asking Rod Tucker if it should not have been called dead-ball.

When the first bowling change came, Anderson had figures of 6-2-11-2. Finn had also conceded 11 from his six-over spell and New Zealand had to attempt to force the pace against Woakes, Broad and Swann. Thanks to McCullum and Taylor, New Zealand attained respectability but they were bowled out with seven balls unused and, ultimately, England's Root to victory was a straightforward one.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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