Between them, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have more than half as many one-day international caps as the entire England team, and the New Zealand pair made their experience count in decisive fashion to help the tourists to victory.
This was Taylor’s 162nd 50-over game for his country, and Williamson’s 77th. England’s XI could muster only 379 caps, 144 of which belong to captain Eoin Morgan. His team have talent, enthusiasm and verve, yet they lacked the poise and class of the Black Caps pair. Both made centuries and for Taylor, it was the second in as many games after a match-winning 119 at The Oval. How England wished they had used the full 50 overs, instead of only 45.2.
When Williamson and Taylor came together, New Zealand were 36 for 2. They quickly engaged cruise control and motored to a record partnership of 206 from 199 balls, taking their side to within 61 runs of their victory target of 303.
Despite a jittery end to the innings, they reached it with an over to spare and three wickets in hand, to claim a 2-1 lead in the series with two to play.
England caught poorly, missing five opportunities, three to remove Taylor and two to despatch Williamson. And yet, after such an absorbing opening to this Royal London series, it feels churlish to be excessively critical. Most spectators will have enjoyed watching England in the past six days. Following such a dispiriting World Cup, that is already a triumph.
After delighting the public with a thrilling victory at Edgbaston and a narrow defeat at The Oval, England entertained again here. Morgan, Ben Stokes and Joe Root made half-centuries and Sam Billings produced a daring 34 from 16 balls, including five consecutive boundaries, in what was only his third appearance.
David Willey, the left-arm seamer, came in for the injured Chris Jordan and took a wicket with his second delivery. Liam Plunkett’s thigh problem gave Mark Wood his chance and he bowled very well, too, removing New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum early in the tourists’ reply.
Yet callow cricketers make more mistakes than their seniors. If New Zealand, batting first, had reached 288 for 5 with 8.2 overs remaining, it is inconceivable to think that just 22 balls later, they would have been bowled out for 302.
In limited-overs cricket, there is a fine line between aggression and carelessness. With no recognised batsman remaining, Stokes, who had 68 from 46 deliveries, tried to heave debutant Ben Wheeler’s final delivery to the midwicket boundary. He lost his leg stump, and with him went many of England’s hopes.
Stokes will think twice before doing that again. Jos Buttler needs to improve his glovework so that he will take acceptable chances like the one offered by Taylor on 72.
Morgan said: “Kane and Ross do not give you many chances and when we did get chances, we didn’t take them, and that is disappointing. We lost the game because of our performance with the ball.
“It does not disappoint me, though, that we failed to occupy the full 50 overs. We are trying to change the mindset of the team with the bat and that may take time. To score more than 300 in each of these games is a huge achievement.
“We have come a long way and we want guys to continue to play this way. That is how we will win games, not by retreating as a group.”
Alex Hales and Jason Roy were picked to give England an explosive start to their innings but neither man has looked especially comfortable, and they made only 32 between them here after Morgan won the toss. Hales’ half-century at The Oval last Friday is the only serious contribution from either in three matches and both men, especially Roy, need to add subtlety to their power.
Their departures united Root and Morgan and England’s most accomplished batsmen counter-attacked. Root compiled a 52-ball half-century in smooth fashion but Morgan needed a little luck as he went along.
He might have been leg-before to Tim Southee for just one, and he was lucky not to be stumped for 33 off Mitchell Santner. Then, when Morgan had 37, the left-arm spinner put down a one-handed caught-and-bowled opportunity.
Santner’s disappointment would not last long. Root was tempted down the pitch by a flighted delivery and was bowled off his pad for 54, ending a stand of 105 from 121 deliveries with Morgan. The captain made an 82-ball 71 and Stokes and Billings kept up the pressure.
Yet Billings’ departure led to a collapse, with five wickets falling for 14 as England were dismissed for 302, making New Zealand favourites. The home side drew hope, though, when Willey had Martin Guptill (4) lbw and Wood dismissed McCullum in the same fashion.
England sensed a chance, but could not seize it. Buttler anticipated Taylor’s intention to paddle to fine leg but could not complete a brilliant catch. The batsman had 17 at the time, and he was spilled again, by Stokes and then Wood, on 67 and 72 respectively.
Williamson’s batting was even more impressive than Taylor’s, as he scored all around the wicket for his 118, from 113 balls. He was dropped at mid-off by Wood on 109 and when the same player atoned to give Willey his second wicket, the game was more or less done.
After Williamson had gone, England picked up Grant Elliott and Santner cheaply and when Taylor dragged on a ball from Ben Stokes for a 123-ball 110, 13 runs were still needed. Luke Ronchi also fell but Southee finished the job with a lofted boundary off Stokes.Reuse content