England stumble as the 'Black Caps' go for a quick kill

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The Independent Online

England’s impressive start to their tour of New Zealand was brought to an abrupt and unceremonious halt last night in Wellington when Paul Collingwood’s side were given a six wicket thrashing by the ‘Black Caps.’

England deserved little else from the game after producing a thoughtless and lethargic batting display. Collingwood’s side will deny that the paltry score of 130 was brought on by complacency but the display had that sort of feel about it.

England had outclassed New Zealand in last weeks two Twenty20 matches, scoring freely at more than eight runs an over, and there was a sense that they just had to turn up to defeat a dispirited and besieged host. But New Zealand should never be underrated. Their cricket resources may be limited but as a team they never offer anything but total commitment, a trait that earned them a 1-0 lead in the five match series.

England’s batting, so decisive and fluent in Auckland and Christchurch, was confused and impotent here. In 49.4 overs they struck just seven boundaries, and three of those were via edges to third man or fine leg. New Zealand, in comparison, passed England’s boundary tally in the ninth over of their reply.

New Zealand needed to start the match well to regain confidence and they did just that. The return of captain, Daniel Vettori, and star all-rounder, Jacob Oram, lifted spirits as did the bowling of Kyle Mills and Chris Martin. On a slow pitch the pair bowled with discipline with the new ball, and athletic and energetic fielding backed up their efforts.

Even so England’s openers, Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard, gave their side a sound start, scoring at almost four an over during the early exchanges. But the context of the match changed when Martin, bowling from round the wicket, bowled Cook for 11. Ian Bell soon followed, edging a cleverly disguised slower ball from the same bowler on to his stumps.

Kevin Pietersen remains England’s pivotal batsman but he never looked settled before being bowled by an Oram nip-backer. Mustard became the fourth England batsman to have his stumps broken when he missed a cutter from the canny Scott Styris, who claimed 2-22, and suddenly England were in dire trouble on 67-4 in the 22nd over.

New Zealand’s bowlers were adapting to the conditions brilliantly, something England’s batsmen failed to do. None were able to dictate how the game was being played, and more worryingly they did not appear to know how.

With Vettori keeping the field up and the batsmen fearful of trying to hit the ball over the top, England began looking for quick singles a policy that led to three run outs. Collingwood was sent back by Owais Shah when a diving Ross Taylor, at straightish mid-wicket, brilliantly cut off a drive to long-off and threw the ball to the keeper. Graeme Swann foolishly set off after hitting the ball to gully only to be beaten by a throw from Jamie How when Shah said no. And finally Shah was run out when he reacted slowly to a call for a single by Stuart Broad. In between Ravi Bopara carelessly pulled a long hop from Styris to deep square-leg. Broad scrambled a few runs with the tail but, all in all, it was a dismal showing.

New Zealand set about England’s bowlers with gusto. Brendon McCullum showed his intent by charging down the pitch at the first ball he faced. Jesse Ryder clipped James Andrson for six in the fourth over and McCullum gave Ryan Sidebottom the same treatment to bring New Zealand’s fifty up.

Broad claimed three wickets as the ‘Black Caps’ went for a quick kill, which was achived with twenty overs of the game remaining. It is the second consecutive thumping England have suffered at the WestPac Stadium. They will be thankful the Test match against New Zealand is to be played at Wellington’s other cricketing venue the Basin Reserve.