So much for momentum. The most coveted and fashionable accessory in modern sport served to propel England only to huge defeat yesterday in the first one-day international against New Zealand.
The tourists went into the match in Wellington possessing as much momentum as it is possible for a single dressing room to contain, garnered by two straightforward victories in warm-up matches and two unquestionably impressive and overwhelming wins in the Twenty20 games.
How misleading it all proved. Momentum disappeared, or was frittered away, as if floating on the breeze in New Zealand's windy city. England, having been delighted to win the toss, were bowled out for 130. New Zealand, facing enormous media and public criticism after their own recent haplessness, had six wickets and 20 overs still at their dis-posal when the total was passed.
Paul Collingwood, the tourists' captain, could only adduce as evidence for a potential comeback the shift in Sri Lanka late last year, when England won the series after being left dumbstruck in the first match. "You have to keep your heads up high," he said. "We are disappointed but we still have four games left.
"When we were in Sri Lanka on those sort of wickets, who would have given us a hope of pulling it around? New Zealand are a very good side, they're third in the world and they're not third in the world for no reason."
England's disconcerting incompetence was exaggerated both by their failure to adapt on the drop-in pitch and their quite staggering ineptitude in running between the wickets. It was one thing to make the mistake of assuming at the toss that the surface was full of runs. It looked full of runs, everybody said it was full of runs, which emphasised for the zillionth time that pitch-reading is up there with astrology and snake-oil peddling as a reputable pursuit.
But it was another thing not to amend the gameplan accordingly. England failed to assemble a partnership higher than the 34 that Alastair Cook and Philip Mustard shared for the first wicket in 9.5 overs. If that looked somewhat sluggish at the time, it could be seen not long after that, given the prevailing conditions, it was tailored as neatlyas a Savile Row suit.
Yet momentum was always glaringly missing. Nobody batted for long enough, nobody seemed to recognise that if somebody, anybody, could manage 60, 70 or 80 and the rest batted round him, it might be enough.
New Zealand were admirable in the circumstances. In the two Twenty20 matches they were moderate at best, their shallow playing resources being found out. They have been the butt of criticism and despair about the future of the game in the country.
They needed this and they not only bowled straight but adhered to excellent lengths. England's difficulties were merely aggravated by three run-outs (it might have been more), all caused by careless cricket. Slow pitches and slightly unfamiliar squares require greater vigilance.
It was all part of the general disinclination to think as quickly and potently as international cricketers should. Perhaps, too, it was timely. With the series wins against India and Sri Lanka, and the grandstanding start in New Zealand, it was becoming tempting to suppose that England were close to being the finished article. Not a bit of it.
From the fall of the first wicket the contest was all but over. Cook, never happy, went first, cramped for space. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen were both undone by the slowness of the pitch. Mustard, the pinch-hitter who has yet to find a pitch to pinch on after five one-dayers in Sri Lanka and one in New Zealand, might have decided that it was best if he simply stayed around. He was unravelled by a smart piece of round-the-wicket bowling by Scott Styris.
Collingwood and Owais Shah were the last realistic hope. Both were run out, Collingwood sauntering a single and then upon being sent back failing to regain his ground, Shah failing to beat Jamie How's throw from cover.
The innings was utterly inadequate, and though lower 50-over totals have been successfully defended three times, early incisions and lots of them were required. They did not arrive. England had lost whatever it was they arrived with. New Zealand suddenly hit big shots – 15 fours and three sixes, compared to England's seven boundaries.
England spurned one catching chance – Graeme Swann at short midwicket – and their fielding was lacklustre. It can be turned round, and the truth is that it should be turned round. New Zealand might be ranked third in the one-day world, but not with this side. Too many good men and true have retired or gone to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
England were extremely poor yesterday, but enough has been seen to demonstrate that a lost series would mean more than a shedding of momentum.
England won toss
A J Cook b Martin (42 min, 26 balls) 11
†P Mustard b Styris (101 min, 60 balls, 2 fours) 31
I R Bell b Martin (17 min, 16 balls, 1 four) 5
K P Pietersen b Oram (25 min, 20 balls) 6
*P D Collingwood run out (Taylor/McCullum)
(30 min, 18 balls, 1 four) 12
O A Shah run out (How/McCullum)
(51 min, 36 balls, 1 four) 20
R S Bopara c Fulton b Styris (16 min, 21 balls) 3
G P Swann run out (How/McCullum)
(14 min, 16 balls, 1 four) 7
S C J Broad not out (57 min, 39 balls, 1 four) 18
R J Sidebottom c & b Patel (33 min, 28 balls) 4
J M Anderson b Patel (16 min, 18 balls) 3
Extras (lb4 w6) 10
Total (49.4 overs, 207 min) 130
Fall: 1-34, 2-42, 3-55, 4-67, 5-80, 6-91, 7-103, 8-104, 9-120, 10-130.
Bowling: K D Mills 9-0-27-0 (3w), C S Martin 8-1-22-2, J D P Oram 8-0-20-1, S B Styris 10-1-22-2 (1w), D L Vettori 8-1-21-0, J S Patel 6.4-0-14-2 (1w).
J D Ryder c sub (Wright) b Broad
(61 min, 50 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) 31
†B B McCullum c Mustard b Broad
(87 min, 42 balls, 5 fours, 1 six) 42
J M How c Mustard b Sidebottom
(59 min, 41 balls, 4 fours) 28
L R P L Taylor not out
(51 min, 39 balls, 2 fours, 1 six) 24
S B Styris c Sidebottom b Broad (7 min, 5 balls) 0
P G Fulton not out (9 min, 3 balls) 1
Extras (b2 lb2 w1) 5
Total (4 wkts; 30 overs, 139 min) 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: R J Sidebottom 9-1-34-1 (1w), J M Anderson 5-0-35-0, S C J Broad 9-2-26-3, G P Swann 3-0-17-0, P D Collingwood 4-0-15-0.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and G A Baxter (NZ).
Third umpire: B F Bowden. Match Referee: A G Hurst (Aus).
New Zealand won by 6 wkts.
Man of the Match: S B Styris (NZ).