At last! England claim first win of tour

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The Independent Online

England completed their first win on the tour of Australia thanks to Andrew Flintoff's unbeaten half-century. Former captain Flintoff, who oversaw the Ashes drubbing by Australia, continued his good form since returning to the ranks with 72 not out as England squeezed home by three wickets over New Zealand in Hobart.

Set 206 on a sluggish surface at Bellerive Oval, England laboured to the target and will have concerns over Michael Vaughan's fitness after he tweaked a hamstring in the field.

Flintoff fittingly sealed the first victory for England since beating West Indies in the ICC Champions Trophy when he hit the penultimate delivery of the match down the ground for a single.

Flintoff walked to the crease with England 94 for four and losing their way.

But Ian Bell, dropped on nine by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum off pace bowler Mark Gillespie, suddenly found fluency alongside the Lancastrian and a combination of steering into gaps from the former and big blows from the latter earned a 40-run share in half-a-dozen overs.

Bell was pinned in front of his stumps by Jeetan Patel's penultimate delivery, however, to leave the contest in the balance.

Numerous run-out chances littered a frantic liaison between Flintoff and veteran Paul Nixon as both sides felt the pressure.

The decisive moment of the chase came in the 45th over with 39 required when Flintoff took on left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.

His slog-sweep just cleared the scrambling Ross Taylor on the mid-wicket boundary and bounced inches inside the rope.

From that point England made a dash for the line and the next over, from Craig McMillan, reaped 11 runs.

There was still time for nerves to set in, however, as Flintoff, on 62, was caught off a full toss, deemed to be a no-ball by Australian umpire Steve Davis because it was over waist high.

New Zealand maintained their tigerish enthusiasm, to leave their opponents seven down and managed to take the contest into the final over with Jon Lewis on strike and four required. Crucially he got Flintoff back on strike and the former captain kept his cool off the bowling of Craig McMillan.

Vaughan, meanwhile, spent the latter part of his innings of 17 with a runner after tweaking his hamstring and will undergo a scan.

This was only his second one-day international back after an 18-month absence with a career-threatening knee injury.

Opening partner Andrew Strauss also succumbed, to an incorrect leg-before decision, to leave England's quest for a maiden victory on the Australian tour on 84 for three after 25 overs.

With his mobility impaired, Vaughan employed Jamie Dalrymple as a runner from the 10th over onwards.

A typical Vaughan pull for four off Mark Gillespie in the next over highlighted his discomfort, jumping up and down on the spot after he swivelled to execute the stroke.

Yorkshire's Vaughan was first to go when another cross-bat shot was well held at short mid-wicket and James Franklin gained a second success despite Strauss getting ball on bat before it hit pad.

The third wicket was self-inflicted, however, as Ed Joyce - in for the departed Kevin Pietersen, was run out by Patel's direct hit as Bell tried to steer a single to point.

Paul Collingwood then steered to midwicket, charging Patel's tidy off-spin.

Earlier, England's response to losing the toss and being smacked around in the early overs was emphatic as they restricted their opponents to 205 for nine.

An impressive performance was kick-started by James Anderson's new-ball spell of 8-0-27-3, and he finished with a four-wicket haul.

England were immediately under pressure as a dozen runs came from the opening over from Lewis.

McCullum began in a blaze, hitting the second ball of the match over cover for six and profiting to the tune of four more when Anderson misjudged the ball at fine leg.

But aside from another six down the ground from Nathan Astle off Lewis, England kept their opponents in check throughout the power-plays. And regular wickets thereafter ensured a reasonable target.

England made one change to the side trounced in the opening triangular tournament contest at the MCG as Ed Joyce came in for the injured Kevin Pietersen.

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