At the end of the 46th over Luke Wright must have felt that, bar the odd piece of fielding, his involvement in this game was over. Then Paul Collingwood, his captain, tapped the Sussex all-rounder on the shoulder to inform him that he was required to bowl the final over of this thrilling encounter.
When Wright finally got his hands on the ball New Zealand, requiring 341 for an unexpected and remarkable victory, were only seven runs short of their target. In such a tense situation nerves can often get the better of an experienced player, let alone a youngster playing in just his third one-day international, but Wright held his game together superbly producing a magnificent over that conceded just six runs to earn England a tie.
England could have even won the game with the final ball of the match had Collingwood’s diving underarm throw from gully hit the stumps. But the ball missed by millimetres, allowing New Zealand to scamper the single that ensured they cannot be beaten in the series. The result still leaves England with plenty to play for; victory in Christchurch on Saturday would allow them to draw level at 2-2 in the five match series.
Few sides can have left a game as delighted as England having scored so many runs and failed to win, but for 43 overs of New Zealand’s run chase a victory for the hosts had seemed inevitable. The combination of excellent batting, especially from Jamie How who scored a brilliant 139, indifferent bowling, a pristine pitch and small boundaries square of the wicket meant that the Black Caps were always on target to pass the third highest one-day total England have ever posted.
But the nature of the game changed completely when Scott Styris, on 20, slogged the admirable Ryan Sidebottom to James Anderson at long on. Forty runs were needed off 39 balls with seven wickets in hand when Styris played his irresponsible shot. New Zealand had all but won the game and his error allowed England back in the match.
Kevin Pietersen then ran out the out of form Peter Fulton athletically at mid-wicket and the same man, fielding at extra cover, caught the dangerous Jacob Oram. Suddenly New Zealand had lost three wickets in three overs and England were fancying their chances.
New Zealand could not get How on strike and Daniel Vettori was struggling to get the bowling away, especially when facing Anderson, who had a poor day at the office. The first two balls of Wright’s over brought singles and against the third a two was scampered, leaving the Black Caps requiring three off three balls.
How took a single before Vettori smashed Wright’s fifth ball to Anderson at mid-off. How set off for a single but was sent back by his captain and was beaten by a direct hit from the fielder. With two needed Vettori slogged at another well-directed yorker and the ball dribbled to gully off his pad but Collingwood just failed to take his chance for glory.
Few expected New Zealand to get close to England’s massive total at the half way stage. England’s batting in Wellington and Hamilton had been pathetic but here it was perfect.
Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard batted beautifully putting on 158 for the first wicket, the pairs previous highest partnership was 43. Mustard was the aggressor making 83, his highest score for England. Cook showed his class too scoring an excellent 69, but the pair fell in consecutive balls to Jesse Ryder. Ian Bell and Pietersen kept the scoring rate high with 43 and 50 respectively but a swashbuckling unbeaten 54 by Collingwood allowed England to post such a daunting total.
Collingwood hit six huge sixes over a small leg-side boundary in a 24 ball half century, the fastest by an England batsman. In all England struck ten sixes in their innings, a record number for them in a one-dayer. It should have been enough to win them the match but New Zealand’s inadequacies make the trip to Christchurch very worthwhile.