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England chances ruined by rain

The Report by David Hopps
March 22, 2014 « Praying for Wenger to stay | Test Wayin World Cup »
Brendon McCullum and Stuart Broad trudge off at the rain break, with New Zealand firmly in front © AFP
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New Zealand 52-1 (Williamson 24*, B McCullum 16*) beat England 172-6 (Moeen 36, Lumb 33, Buttler 32, Anderson 2-32) by 9 runs (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Brendon McCullum whacked a full toss from Stuart Broad in the last ball of the fifth over to take New Zealand past their Duckworth-Lewis target just before rain poured down in Chittagong after England had made 172-6.

New Zealand needed to bat for five overs, in reply to England's challenging but far from secure total, to bring rain calculations into play in the event of a washed out match. When the first fork of lightning lit up the sky behind the bowler's arm, and caused McCullum to pull away from the crease with Broad about to enter his delivery stride, they still had to face two balls to make the match valid.

Unbeknown to the players, New Zealand needed one more run from the last two balls of Broad's over to claim victory if rain proved to wash out the rest of the game. There was nobody better to be at the crease in such a scenario than McCullum, a bullish batsman on the brink of becoming the first to 2,000 T20I runs, a table he leads by a considerable margin.

McCullum gingerly blocked the next then charged the last ball and whacked a full toss straight for six. It is the sort of thing he does anyway, but it was ideally timed. Broad's only over had cost 16 and, as the players left the field two balls into the next over, persistent rain wiped away any chance of a resumption, with New Zealand ultimately nine ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis target.

England would have had a par of around 180 in mind after watching the first match and adding on another 15 or 20 runs for the way in which evening dew had tipped the balance a little closer towards the batsmen.

They did not quite achieve it, but one indicator at midway held promise for them: their 172-6 was the highest total ever seen in Chittagong. They had set a challenging target and New Zealand had never beaten England on three previous occasions when batting second.

Such are the low expectations around England's challenge that there will have been a few cynical grunts from TV watchers when they launched their part in the tournament with a second-ball duck - it belonged to Alex Hales, who failed to work Kyle Mills' slower ball into the leg side and fell to one of two splendid catches by Corey Anderson, back pedalling at mid-off.

From that point, though, every England batsmen made some sort of contribution. They had unearthed a team batting display after a dreadful run of limited-overs form when they most needed one, although nobody managed to push on for the major score which would have made their position stronger. The least they deserved was a match played to a conclusion. Instead, their recent T20 record remains worse than every other nation bar Bangladesh.

New Zealand had also twice been whitewashed in recent times in one-day series in Bangladesh, but this was not about containing the opposition on low, suffocating tracks. New Zealand's pace bowlers, Tim Southee especially, became a little over-excited with the juice in the pitch and bowled too short, his first over going for 17.

The chief beneficiary was Moeen Ali. England kept faith with him at No.3, even though his first five limited-overs matches in the West Indies had suggested a county batsman initially struggling to make the transition to international level. This was his best England innings, powered by several lofted leg side blows, one of which produced his downfall as he deposited Corey Anderson to deep midwicket.

The sight of hessian sacks being pulled around the outfield to minimise evening dew had been an indicator of the slippery ball that might inhibit the spin bowlers in particular. England relied upon four pace bowlers and omitted the left-arm spinner Stephen Parry; New Zealand also left out a left-arm spinner, Anton Devcich, as well as Ronnie Hira.

By the time Anderson took his second catch, a diving effort on the cover boundary to dismiss Michael Lumb for 33, England had set up a reasonable platform - 76-3 off 8.4 - for their two most destructive T20 batsman, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler. But Morgan, deceived by Southee's slower ball, departed to a curious walking shot, as if he was creeping from around a bush to dry his hands in a headwind.

Mitchell McClenaghan proved to be New Zealand's most resourceful bowler, but a tricksy contribution from Buttler, ended when he dragged on against Anderson, kept England in touch. Then came McCullum, the thunder and lightning, and gathering despair in the England dressing room.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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