Paul Collingwood blasted England to a much-needed six wicket victory here this morning with a majestic unbeaten 70 to keep the five-match one-day series against New Zealand alive.
After dreadful displays in Wellington and Hamilton England needed someone to stand up and produce a match winning performance and the captain did just that with an outstanding all-round display. They now travel to Napier for Tuesday's fourth one-dayer with spirits high and the series nicely set up at 2-1.
England stuttered as they chased New Zealand's Duckworth/Lewis adjusted target of 229 in 47 overs when Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen were trapped lbw in consecutive overs from Daniel Vettori, the Black Caps captain. Bell and Pietersen batted well following the early loss of Phil Mustard - England's seventh run out of the series - and Alastair Cook, adding 107 runs for the third wicket.
Bell batted beautifully for his 73 and was unfortunate to be given out lbw, having edged the ball on to his pad. His angry reaction to Asad Rauf's decision could see him disciplined. Pietersen played extremely responsibly for 41. It was as though he had a point to prove. He could have no complaints it was plumb.
When the pair fell England were still 80 runs short of their target and there were genuine fears that they may once again implode. But Collingwood refused to allow a negative thought enter his head. He was aggressive, industrious and positive from the moment he walked out to bat, and his tactics came off. Collingwood totally dominated the partnership with Owais Shah, who scored just 18 of the 80 runs added.
The 31 year-old struck six boundaries and three sixes in his 50 ball innings. Jacob Oram was hit back over his head and in to the crowd early on and at the death two full tosses from Chris Martin and Paul Hitchcock were heaved over square leg. Collingwood's best shot, however, was the reverse sweep he played to the medium pace of Hitchcock. It was magnificently executed and it highlighted his and England's confidence. What a difference three days make.
A superb 88 from Oram dominated New Zealand’s innings. The powerful all-rounders struck four boundaries and four towering sixes in the 91 balls he faced. Two of the sixes were hit in Stuart Broad's final over, blows that spoilt what, up until then, were excellent figures. Vettori scored a quickfire 42 off 35 balls and it was his 74 run partnership with Oram that allowed the Black Caps to set a challenging total of 234-9 from the precarious position of 95-6.
England's bowlers lost their discipline and took a pounding during Tuesday's 10 wicket defeat in Hamilton but on this occasion they were right on the spot, making New Zealand's top order work for every run. Brendon McCullum attempted to unsettle England's openers but he was out-smarted by James Anderson, who tucked him up with a well directed short ball that struck the batsman on the glove and lobbed to Alastair Cook at second slip.
Broad was the pick of England's attack, taking 3-32. Bowling in to a strong wind the lanky seamer had Jamie How well caught by Collingwood in the gully and Scott Styris bagged at mid-wicket during a highly impressive opening spell. Rotund opener, Jesse Ryder, heaved Anderson over the leg side for a huge six but holed out to deep square leg attempting to repeat the shot to the same bowler.
Collingwood bowled Peter Fulton in his opening over and in attempt to kill off the opposition he bowled his three main bowlers - Sidebottom, Anderson and Broad - for 23 of the first 25 overs. It was good to see Collingwood take such a positive approach and the tactic should have been rewarded with the wicket of Oram, who should have been given out lbw to the luckless Sidebottom on five.
The one drawback of the policy was that it meant 20 of the final 27 overs of New Zealand's innings would be bowled by lesser bowlers. New Zealand were aware of this and their innings gathered momentum against Collingwood, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright, whose 20 overs cost 120 runs.
Oram looked set to reach three figures when he top edged a full toss from Sidebottom to mid wicket and Bell took a superb diving catch running back. A healthy crowd of 18,180 gave Oram a rousing send off. Without his efforts the match would have been as one-sided as the previous two.