The one-day series rose from the dead yesterday. Barely 20 overs after the start, with New Zealand in utter disarray it was all but extinct. The match was as dull as the longest day at the County Ground, the result was inevitable, the tourists were homeward bound.
The sooner the Kiwis and the spectators were spared from further suffering the sooner everybody could dash home to sit in front of the fire. If it saw off 50-over cricket as well, better still. Six hours later, New Zealand had effected a remarkable recovery and England had contrived to lose by 22 runs. Somehow it is 1-1 in the series and it seems that the long form of limited-overs cricket is still alive. Proof has been supplied yet again that the lowest-scoring matches can be the most dramatic.
England made a hash of it. If they are making progress as a one-day side – and the soundings from inside the camp will have it no other way – then they still have fragilities that they are ready and willing to expose.
It is difficult, maybe wrong to accuse them of complacency but to lose a match in bowler-friendly conditions afterwinning the toss and taking a huge early lead was at the least careless. To New Zealand should go immense credit for hanging in there.
After New Zealand's initial collapse, they used up overs and kept enough wickets intact for a big bash at the end. Thus fortified, they dared attack England – and it worked. England's batsmen simply failed to bat under pressure. All they had to do was see off the new ball, play sensible cricket and the tie would belong to them.
They failed. Well as New Zealand bowled to take advantage of the conditions, England did not play smart cricket. There were too many haphazard shots when probity was necessary.
When New Zealand were 49 for 5 and not long after 75 for 6 it all looked plainly straightforward. Of course, everybody was aware that the Kiwis are doughty fighters but they were cribbed, cabin'd and confined in and when the dismissed men left the field it would have been no surprise had they simply kept walking on past the dressing rooms and to the airport for a flight home.
It was international cricket at its drabbest. Those seeking the extinction of one-day internationals – and proponents of the cause are growing quicker than the queues outside Northern Rock last autumn – may well use this part of the match in a promotional DVD, editing out what happened later.
This was torpid – the longest day looming in every sense. But if it was hardly entertaining, nor was it pointless. The tourists had somehow to try to simply occupy the crease in the hope, forlorn as it seemed, that they could muster a total worth fielding for.
So eventually it proved.
England who had been so dominant, whose bowling and fielding were models of how to proceed after winning the toss and fielding, could not apply the finishing touch.
There were three important partnerships which grew in significance chronologically. For the sixth wicket, Grant Elliott and wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins put on 26. It was only 26 and Hopkins made a mere seven, haplessly, but it used up eight overs; it helped stabilise matters, although Hopkins' dismissal added a footnote to history.
He was caught by William Porterfield, who was fielding as 12th man. Although Porterfield is on Gloucestershire's books, he plays his internationalcricket for Ireland and indeed was in the last World Cup. But the laws state that anybody can take the field as a substitute except as a wicketkeeper or captain, and at that moment Paul Collingwood was not in any need of assistance.
His counterpart DanielVettori helped Elliott to take the score to 110 before mistiming a slogged drive to mid-on. Another nine overs had gone. It was then that England should have finished matters but the coup de grâce was elusive. Stuart Broad had used up his 10 overs at the start, Chris Tremlett, too, was done. It was between Jimmy Anderson and Luke Wright.
Anderson had picked up the wicket of Brendon McCullum early in the piece when the New Zealand thunderer was threatening to run rampant. He had hit six, four, four, two from successive balls when another blistering drive failed to clear deep mid-off (good field positioning for him, that) where Kevin Pietersen, perhaps uncharacteristically, made the catch seem deceptively simple. That had started the initial rot with the balls seaming around and the Kiwis not in the mood for seeing it through.
But this changed. The eighth-wicket partnership between Kyle Mills and Elliott added 54 and Elliott scored his maiden one-day international fifty in his second match. He is 29 and from South Africa, where he learned his cricket, but then he is not the only South African to be scoring the bulk of the runs for a country other than his own.
The last two overs yielded 32 runs. It was enough. Early wickets were crucial and New Zealand got two, Wright in the first over, Pietersen in the fifth. Ian Bell's role was vital now but he was not up to the challenge. Tim Southee took three wickets in eight balls.
The middle order imploded. Paul Collingwood threatened to do what he has done before but neither he nor Graeme Swann ever quite convinced. The end came quickly. It was just what the series wanted.
England won toss
J M How b Broad
(47 min, 33 balls, 1 four) 10
B B McCullum c Pietersen b Anderson
(13 min, 11 balls, 2 fours) 17
L R P L Taylor b Broad
(44 min, 30 balls) 8
S B Styris c Ambrose b Tremlett
(4 min, 6 balls, 1 four) 4
D R Flynn c Tremlett b Anderson
(36 min, 26 balls) 2
G D Elliott c Wright b Anderson
(138 min, 102 balls, 3 fours) 56
†G J Hopkins c sub (Porterfield) b Collingwood
(34 min, 24 balls) 7
*D L Vettori c Shah b Swann
(33 min, 27 balls, 2 fours) 18
K D Mills c Collingwood b Wright
(44 min, 40 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes) 47
T G Southee c Pietersen b Wright
(1 min, 1 ball) 0
M R Gillespie not out
(2 min, 0 balls) 0
Extras (lb6, w7) 13
Total (50 overs) 182
Fall: 1-19 (McCullum), 2-37 (How), 3-42 (Styris), 4-42 (Taylor), 5-49 (Flynn), 6-75 (Hopkins), 7-110 (Vettorri), 8-164 (Elliott), 9-168 (Southee), 10-182 (Mills).
Bowling: Anderson 10-0-61-3, Broad 10-4-14-2, Tremlett 10-1-24-1, Wright 6-0-34-2, Collingwood 10-0-33-1, Swann 4-0-10-1.
I R Bell c McCullum b Elliott
(69 min, 43 balls, 3 fours) 20
L J Wright c Styris b Mills
(2 min, 3 balls)2
K P Pietersen c Elliott b Mills
(16 min, 13 balls, 1 four) 4
R S Bopara c How b Southee
(54 min, 42 balls, 4 fours) 27
*P D Collingwood lbw b Southee
(115 min, 80 balls, 3 fours) 34
O A Shah c Styris b Southee
(4 min, 3 balls) 0
†T R Ambrose c Taylor b Southee
(2 min, 4 balls) 0
G P Swann c Taylor b Styris
(69 min, 46 balls, 4 fours) 29
S C J Broad c Hopkins b Vettori
(42 min, 30 balls) 17
C T Tremlett c Vettori b Elliott
(15 min, 15 balls) 3
J M Anderson not out
(2 min, 1 balls) 0
Extras (lb 8, w 15, nb1) 24
Total (46.2 overs) 160
Fall: 1-3 (Wright), 2-19 (Pietersen), 3-62 (Bell), 4-64 (Bopara), 5-64 (Shah), 6-64 (Ambrose), 7-129 (Swann), 7-129 (Swann), 8-152 (Collingwood), 9-160 (Broad), 10-160 (Tremlett).
Bowling: Mills 10-0-42-2, Gillespie 8-3-15-0, Southee 10-2-38-4, Elliott 5.2-2-9-2, Vettori 9-1-32-1, Styris 4-0-16-1.
Umpires: S J Davis (Aus) and P J Hartley (Eng).
New Zealand win by 22 runs. Five-match series level at 1-1. Man of the match: K D Mills (NZ).