What a difference a day makes. Well, not quite a day, 79.4 overs to be precise. That is how long it took New Zealand to end the belief that this England one-day side was on the verge of something special, after two outstanding Twenty20 performances against the same opposition.
England's demoralising six-wicket defeat to the Black Caps in Saturday's first one-dayer here at the Westpac Stadium does not mean that Paul Collingwood's side must now be viewed as a useless bunch of prima donnas. Far from it. The potential to become a decent limited-over outfit is still there. But the result and the performance do indicate that England still have a considerable way to go.
Every team has a bad day. Even Australia, who were bowled out for 159 by India yesterday. It is just that the best teams have far fewer of them than the rest. At the moment England, as John Arlott famously said when talking about the former New Zealand Test cricketer Bob Cunis, are neither one thing nor the other.
When they are good, as they were for three consecutive one-dayers in Sri Lanka before Christmas, they are very good. But when they are bad, as they were in the first and fifth one-dayers in Sri Lanka, and at the weekend against New Zealand, they are bloody awful.
England's problems at the Westpac Stadium were caused by the inability of the batsmen to modify their game to the conditions placed in front of them. In Sri Lanka Collingwood's side played three consecutive matches at the same venue on similar types of pitches. It made it easier for them to adapt. In New Zealand, however, they will probably play on five contrasting surfaces.
In important World Cup matches England may well play at a venue for the first time, so they must improve. Posting competitive totals in such circumstances is vital.
Judging what a good total is when batting first is a major skill in limited-over cricket, and on this occasion England did not have a clue. The drop-in pitch played differently to how everyone expected. Most pundits expected it to possess pace and bounce, conditions that allow batsmen to play shots, yet it had as much life in it as an old sock.
The slow nature of the surface suited New Zealand's attack and prevented England's batsmen from batting as they wanted. But rather than step back and re-evaluate how to bat they just froze. And it was the uncertainty created by not being able to hit boundaries – England struck just seven in 49.4 overs – that led to confusion, injudicious running between the wickets and three embarrassing run outs.
"We've got players who can adapt," said Peter Moores, the England coach, before travelling to Hamilton for tomorrow's second one-dayer. "We saw that in the Twenty20s on two funny shaped grounds, but we just didn't do that well in the 50-over game and they made us pay.
"We have got to go away and think about what did not work for us and come back strong on Tuesday. We responded well in Sri Lanka after defeat and this is a similar situation.
"It is the first time a lot of the team have played in New Zealand [only Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah have toured here before] and they've got to learn quickly. The team is quite young and inexperienced, and sometimes the beauty is that they do learn quickly, as we saw in Sri Lanka.
"New Zealand are the sort of side that are always up for a challenge and they played very well. They kept us under pressure, so that we fell well short of what we needed."
Quite right. Posting a paltry total of 130 was inexcusable, but credit should also be given to New Zealand, who were excellent. The Black Caps bowled with discipline and guile, and athletic and energetic fielding backed the bowlers up.
The retirement of several senior players and the rush of others to cash in on the Twenty20 leagues in India has left New Zealand cricket in a state of depression. Everyone knows how vulnerable the game is here, and the expected retirement of former captain, Stephen Fleming, at the end of the coming Test series against England, so that he too can fill his pockets in India, has done little to ease a nation's concern. For the emotional well-being of its cricket fans New Zealand desperately needed a win.
The defeat has left England with plenty to think about. All of a sudden it is they who need a victory. Going 2-0 down in a five-match series would take a lot of coming back from.
The selectors will consider changing the team, with the greatest discussion being over whether Dimitri Mascarenhas will replace Ravi Bopara. Bopara's stock has fallen almost as fast as Northern Rock shares this winter but he remains a player for the future. Dropping the Essex all-rounder would further knock his confidence but Mascarenhas is in top form.
* A stunning spell of fast bowling from Ishant Sharma set up a five-wicket victory for India against Australia in Melbourne. Ishant took four wickets as the hosts were dismissed for 159. India stuttered in reply, but 44 from Sachin Tendulkar saw them home.
England won toss
A N Cook b Martin 11
†P Mustard b Styris 31
I R Bell b Martin 5
K P Pietersen b Oram 6
*P D Collingwood run out 12
O A Shah run out 20
R S Bopara c Fulton b Styris 3
G P Swann run out 7
S C J Broad not out 18
R J Sidebottom c & b Patel 4
J M Anderson b Patel 3
Extras (lb4 w6) 10
Total (49.4 overs) 130
Fall: 1-34 2-42 3-55 4-67 5-80 6-91 7-103 8-104 9-120
Bowling: Mills 9-0-27-0; Martin 8-1-22-2; Oram 8-0-20-1; Styris 10-1-22-2; Vettori 8-1-21-0; Patel 6.4-0-14-2
New Zealand Innings
J D Ryder c Sub b Broad 31
†B B McCullum c Mustard b Broad 42
J M How c Mustard b Sidebottom 28
R L Taylor not out 24
S B Styris c Sidebottom b Broad 0
P G Fulton not out 1
Extras (b2 lb2 w1) 5
Total (for 4 wkts, 30 overs) 131
Fall: 1-61 2-83 3-122 4-127
Did not bat: J D P Oram, *D L Vettori, K D Mills, J S Patel, C S Martin.
Bowling: Sidebottom 9-1-34-1; Anderson 5-0-35-0; Broad 9-2-26-3; Swann 3-0-17-0; Collingwood 4-0-15-0.
Umpires: G A Baxter and A Rauf.Reuse content