What a pleasure it was to return to the sedate confines of the traditional limited-overs game. All that wham bam Twenty20 stuff, with which England started their tour of New Zealand, was replaced yesterday by the more familiar strains of the 50-over variety.
No more dancing girls, simply the old-fashioned accoutrements of pop music between overs and simple coloured clothing, occasionally a ball being left to pass harmlessly by the off stump: the eternal verities. There were some old friends returning to the colours too – Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, Jimmy Anderson all playing their first match since the Test series in India finished a week before Christmas.
England lost the first of the three ODIs between the sides by three wickets, failing to defend a total of 259 in a close contest and a thoroughly pleasing occasion in small-town Hamilton. The main difference between the teams was the last 10 overs of each innings.
The tourists could have put the match beyond the Kiwis' reach but mucked it up, shedding wickets in a flurry of misjudgement so that from 190 for 3 at the end of the 40th over they were all out for 258 with three balls left of the 50th over.
By contrast New Zealand crashed their way from 178 for 5 to 259 for 7 with seven balls to spare. They were taken to the target by Brendon McCullum, their captain, who made an unbeaten 69 from 61 balls, and Martin Guptill, who retired hurt in the sixth over and returned in the 46th, when he hit 24 from 10 balls.
As McCullum suggested, Guptill's hamstring injury which precluded running was almost a bonus at that stage. "We knew that if he came back it would be at nine or 10 and that his running would be limited. It almost played into our hands because it meant I could try and get off strike and try and let him hit to the boundary."
As Alastair Cook, the England captain, indicated, it was the kind of match both sides would have been disappointed to lose. Both eased themselves into winning positions – or could have done – but it was New Zealand who made it count at the end. "It was up to someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and win it and they had two men who did that," said Cook.
If England fail to win this series they will rue their aberrations. Three men scored 50 but none went on. Ian Bell passed 50 for the seventh time in 17 innings since he resumed his one-day career last summer as an opening batsman but he was out limply, wafting at a wide one.
It was the same Trott as ever. There was nothing fancy, nothing unexpected and there was certainly not a six. When he was out for 68 from 90 balls he could either have been blamed for not going on or thanked for getting out and letting the hitters in. Trott is not for changing and England know what they are getting.
Root was lovely to watch again. He is not a hitter of big sixes, or of any sixes at all so far in internationals, but he is perpetually looking for a way of opening up the field and finding different shots to do it. But being bowled in the 45th was hardly ideal.
Jos Buttler was briefly breathtaking but the ball after an overhead six he hit a full toss to cover. Chris Woakes was excellently caught by McCullum flinging himself to his right.
England clearly knew they had come up short but they had a super start. With his sixth ball the returning Anderson unleashed a late inswinger which seared its way through B J Watling and removed his middle stump. It was a deserving ball for Anderson to set the record as England's leading international wicket-taker, taking him past Ian Botham's total haul of 528. Anderson has 288 in Tests, 223 in ODIs and 18 in T20s.
When Guptill retired hurt with a hamstring strain in the sixth over, New Zealand concentrated on consolidation. Kane Williamson was fluent and composed, while Ross Taylor was the opposite but struggled on.
It was Williamson's needless run-out, sent back by McCullum, which seemed to have turned the match towards the tourists. McCullum reckoned, however, that one or two big overs would do it. At 218 for 7 in the 46th they still needed them. Then they arrived.
Guptill, with nothing to lose, hit crisply and McCullum, with three sixes and six fours, played with wonderful smartness. His final six, a venomous pull off Stuart Broad, virtually sealed the proceedings.
England's last one-day match had been at remote Dharamsala in the shadow of the Himalayas. Seddon Park is pretty enough, if somewhat less spectacular. England have lost all four international matches they have played there. Quick, back to the mountains.
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