It is among cricket’s more surprising statistics that New Zealand have won more one-day internationals against England than they have lost. The feeling is that it would and should be the other way round.
In extending the margin to 37-31 with a five-wicket victory at Lord’s yesterday with 19 balls to spare they were barely troubled. Martin Guptill became the first New Zealander to score a limited-overs hundred at Lord’s, clipping four to reach the unforgettable milestone and win the match. The team that had been trampled upon in two Test matches were reinvigorated, doubtless helped by the inclusion of six different players.
The risk in asking England to bat on a typically amiable Lord’s pitch, albeit one taking spin, was amply justified. When the tourists lost two wickets in the first over of the innings, the chilly memory of being bowled out for 68 on the ground less than a fortnight ago must have swept through the dressing room.
But it soon passed and Guptill, the opener who had not faced a ball when his side were 0-2, assumed control, facing 123 balls and striking eight fours and four sixes. It was the sort of controlled, measured innings that was distinctly lacking in England’s deeply disappointing batting order.
Alastair Cook, who was criticised for his captaincy in the second Test in Leeds, redeemed himself well with some positive, thoughtful tactics as England sought to defend a total of 227, some 50 below what they should have mustered.
Their response was made much harder because they were missing both Stuart Broad with a bruised knee and Steve Finn with sore shins. They will need them for the weeks ahead.
Yet there is no disguising that England’s batting was simply inadequate. Four players made 30, none made fifty, another four reached double figures. In most cases, the choice of stroke was as defective as the stroke itself.
Perhaps it was a bad day at the office and best to get it out of the way early in the piece before the (more) serious business of the Champions Trophy begins. But there ought to be some stern rumination on the subject of the need to take responsibility.
If a panel were constituted to adjudicate on which shot took the biscuit for poor conception, shoddy execution and sheer daftness it would have its work cut out. The Man Booker jury has had clearer winners.
The pity was that it all started with such crisp certainty. Cook and Ian Bell, bedded in now as opening partners in their 21st outing together, looked in extremely decent order. Cook clipped and nurdled, Bell shed his wretchedness of the Test series and was briefly delightful, driving down the ground with footwork that was only just this side of sublime.
Both of them were out in similar fashion, essaying booming drives at balls which moved away from them, providing catches for Luke Ronchi behind the wicket. Ronchi was making his debut for the country where he was born, having five years ago played matches for Australia, where he was brought up.
No harm appeared to have been done because Jonathan Trott and Joe Root soon began to reap the benefit of a benign pitch. England had been put in but runs on the board seemed to be the better option.
Root was out when he played a reverse sweep to a ball that skidded on and bowled him. It always looks bad when this happens but the stroke is a legitimate ally of Root’s and if it was a misjudgement it is now a conventional part of the game.
Trott is frequently the object of unfair criticism for his approach to one-day cricket but yesterday he merited it. The scoop-cum-slog he played to mid-wicket came at a poor time and was badly conveyed – this from a man, do not forget, who has hit only two sixes in 54 ODI innings and those in carrying the preposterously short boundaries at Cardiff two years ago.
Soon after, Eoin Morgan advanced down the wicket to Mitchell McClenaghan who saw him coming and dropped it short, leaving the batsman to stand there and allow the ball to hit the bat and loop behind. Jos Buttler, a master of improvisation, was also out to a reverse hit which ended in the hands of point.
These are still early days for Buttler in international cricket and while he must stick to his method he also has to begin to deliver from the middle order quickly. Of course, it would help if he did not have to rebuild the innings.
Of that lot, perhaps Trott is the leading candidate for particular derision. It was left to a late-order scramble to ensure that England reached a total that was still well below what was to be expected but at least did not cause outright despair among the bowlers.
The later order did what it could to achieve respectability but it was never likely to be enough if their opponents batted sensibly. When Jimmy Anderson took two wickets in the first over with rip-snorting swingers – which were abetted by two splendid catches at slip and wicketkeeper respectively – England were at least in the game.
But Guptill and Ross Taylor calmly and handsomely restored order. England kept chipping away, Anderson was brought back to claim a third wicket and Graeme Swann, in a probing spell, claimed the fourth with one that turned appreciably.
When Brendon McCullum played a foolhardy shot to rank with any executed by England there might have been a brief moment of concern among the tourists. Guptill never put a foot wrong thereafter and the Kiwis might be back.
Worst kits: Walk of shame
1994-95 World Series Cup
The light-blue strip (worn by Mike Atherton) can only be described as cricket’s attempt to rival the faux-pas committed in football. England won three of their matches.
2013 One-Day International
England’s return to red yesterday evokes an ODI nightmare for those who have not suppressed the memories of 2009. After regaining the Ashes, England were left red-faced in the 50-over format, losing 6-1 to Australia on home soil.
1992 World Cup
The multi-coloured kit England donned in Australia and New Zealand (modelled far right by Graham Gooch) will be forever lodged in cricket’s memory. The team went all the way to the final, losing by an agonising 22 runs to Pakistan – all the while looking like Harry Enfield’s shellsuit-wearing Scousers.
Stats magic: Key numbers from Lord’s
7 Eoin Morgan and Luke Ronchi make up two of seven players to play for different ODI nations
2 Number of victories for England in their last nine One-Day Internationals at Lord’s
2008 NZ’s last ODI loss in Eng was at the Riverside five years ago
6 England have lost six of their last seven home ODIs v NZ