Sport Editor Rob Cross reviews the recent ODI series success versus New Zealand, picking out some memorable highlights.
Less than two weeks ago, a new-look England side were preparing to square up to World Cup finalists New Zealand for the first of five ODI’s. Not even the staunchest England fans could claim much optimism after a dismal World Cup display. Fast-forward a fortnight, and those feelings of dejection have been extinguished as England crashed, banged and walloped their way to a thrilling 3-2 series victory.
The names of Southee, McCullum, Guptill and co. reminded England fans all too vividly of the humiliation that was dished out in Wellington and the differing fortunes of the two sides. The echoes of ‘embarrassment’ and ‘too bad for words’ were still reverberating with the home supporters as a young and inexperienced side took to the field at Edgbaston.
Record breaking start
The series started in the worst possible way; Jason Roy sent back to the pavilion after the very first ball. From that blip however, England were imperious throughout the rest of the match and no one could have predicted what happened next. Among the records that fell were England’s highest ODI total (408-9) and the 2nd and 4th fastest centuries in England ODI history. These three records in particular highlight the attacking intent with the bat which became a prominent feature throughout this series. It has been an area where England have been so lacking in the past, overshadowed by the brute force of players such as AB De Villiers and Chris Gayle who have shaped the short forms of the game for what they are today; run fests.
It was touted by pundits and public as one of the biggest turnarounds by a team from one game to the next. As a result, England fans were now well and truly on board with the tactics and mind-set that interim coach Paul Farbrace and captain Eoin Morgan were keen to employ. The Oval played host to another fantastic contest. This time it was New Zealand who seized the initiative with the bat and posted a formidable 398-5 which would require the second highest successful run chase in ODI history. England produced another staggering response, but fell just short as their revised Duckworth-Lewis target proved one hurdle too far. More records fell, and amongst them; the highest match aggregate in an ODI in England (763 runs), and the third-highest overall. The stats were staggering, but whilst complaints flooded in about Duckworth-Lewis, the series was now level at 1-1.
Black Caps bounce back
Southampton’s Ageas Bowl played host to the 3rd ODI, and a batting masterclass from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor that earned the Black Caps a second victory. With both batsmen scoring centuries in another high scoring game, they were able to knock-off England’s total of 302 in 49 overs. Many were critical of England’s commitment to aggressive batting; positions of 194-3 and 288-5 were wasted en route to being bowled out for 302. Nevertheless, it was third time in a row that England had scored over 300 and a feat that they had never before achieved.
Root and Morgan respond in style
As far as the series was concerned, the 4th ODI at Trent Bridge was a ‘must-win’ encounter for England. New Zealand posted another formidable total, this time 349-7, and one which would require a national record to overcome. The series had already grabbed the attention and excitement of the British public and this time it was England to record two centurions, and the third wicket stand of 198 between Root and Morgan was England’s highest ODI stand against New Zealand for any wicket. They reached the required target of 350 in only 44 overs, smashing their previous best of 306-5 against Pakistan 15 years ago. It was another sparkling display, leaving fans wondering just how many runs their side might have made in 50 overs, at the loss of only 3 wickets.
Nail biting climax
A thrilling finale was what this series deserved. A lively Chester-le-Street crowd watched on as a fine bowling display from England limited New Zealand to 283. In any other context, this would have been a fine score, but with the quality of cricket that had taken place over the past fortnight, it seemed paltry in comparison. Then came the rain. It looked at one point that a result might not be achieved, but when the covers eventually came off, the revised target was 192 off 26 overs. It was a very reachable target, but England started poorly and were swiftly reduced to 45-5. New Zealand were firm favourites for victory at this point, but Jonny Bairstow, only called up the previous evening due to an injury acquired by Jos Buttler settled the ship with a magnificent 83 and led the hosts to victory with an over to spare.
A remarkable end to a quite thrilling series. England had managed to accumulate the highest run total ever scored by a team in a five-match series (1,617) and complete a staggering transformation from the team who had failed to get out of the group stages at the World Cup just three months ago. It has been the most thrilling series of ODI cricket that I have ever witnessed an England side be a part of, and overall second to our 2005 Ashes success. This will give the squad a much needed boost ahead of a summer of stiff competition from Australia. This talented young squad have shown very promising signs, and whatever clicked for the team over the past fortnight, long may it continue.