Tufnell has England on high again

New Zealand 222-6 England 226-6 England win by four wickets
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The Independent Online
It may not have pleased the purists, but New Zealand cricket's attempt to merge the one-day game with rock 'n' roll was certainly to the liking of Philip Tufnell. The left-arm spinner, whose chosen song for the series was Oasis's "Cigarettes and Alcohol," took a career-best 4 for 22 as England recorded their first overseas one-day win against a Test-playing nation since beating South Africa in Bloemfontein, 13 matches ago.

Ironically, Tufnell, who also won his first man of the match award as England went 1-0 up in the five-match series, was not expected to play, and only a late decision by captain Michael Atherton - after he had seen the condition of the pitch - gave the spinner his first limited-over run- out in more than two years.

It has been a trying 48 hours for Tufnell, not least because of the not- so-mysterious posters that have suddenly sprung up around Christchurch.

The posters which read - "Phil Tufnell must agree that Bardellis is Christchurch's best joint" - are the talk of the town, though their blatant appearance does tend to lend credibility to the claim that the whole thing was just a crude publicity stunt, timed to coincide with England winning the Test series. "See you down there," quipped Tufnell to assembled journalists who attended a terse post-match press conference.

Unsurprisingly, he was the object of the crowd's attention - most of it puerile - long before he got the ball in his hand. It was a situation the old Tufnell would probably not have handled at all well, and although the latest version is perhaps not the exciting bowler of old, he is more imperturbable than he used to be.

He even made the grand gesture of doffing his cap at the end of his spell, a touch the large, partisan crowd at Lancaster Park greatly appreciated.

"I thought he coped with it well," Atherton said. "I had a chat with him beforehand and told him to be strong. He has not played many one-day internationals recently and his performance was exceptional."

In fact, he did not come on until the 20th over, when the score was 87 for 1. But if his introduction was delayed, his impact was immediate, and he instantly removed the hard- hitting Nathan Astle, who tamely chipped a leading edge to Graham Thorpe at extra cover. Two overs later, a similar fate befell Adam Parore as he lobbed a return catch to the bowler.

With the odd ball turning, Tufnell proved difficult to get away, and he and Robert Croft more or less put a brake on the Kiwis' run rate.

Deceleration always creates pressure in limited-over situations, and it was not long before Chris Cairns perished at deep square leg trying to chance his arm. Two overs later, Stephen Fleming was stumped after he set off for a leg bye without waiting to see if the ball had eluded Alec Stewart, who promptly whipped the bails off.

Once Tufnell had finished, however, New Zealand were able to take their score to 226, as 66 runs were taken from the last 10 overs.

It was a total that looked as if it might be adequate after Atherton and Nick Knight had fallen in quick succession. That was until the Surrey duo of Stewart and Thorpe got going, their scintillating partnership of 170 suddenly making the target look a formality. Both batsmen were in exquisite form, and their respective boundary counts, a six and eight fours, were identical.

In the end, after a late flurry of wickets, England's victory fell somewhere in between and, with five runs wanted from nine balls, a forceful two- ball innings from Croft - who struck Heath Davis for successive fours through the covers - broke the tension.

Having won the toss and batted, New Zealand got off to a storming start, with both Astle and Bryan Young piercing Atherton's well-set off side field. Astle in particular, hit the ball with great power, particularly through extra cover, and he took 12 off one over by Alan Mullally.

Such extravagance seemed a snip in comparison to Croft, whose third over went for 16. Croft prefers to bowl to an off-stump line, but as Atherton brought him on before the fielding restrictions were lifted, he was forced to bowl at leg-stump instead. Croft, however, as he has done all winter, persevered, and his remaining nine overs cost the Welshman just 25 runs.

Mind you, the conditions certainly suited spin and the pitch used was the same one the Test had been played on, which meant it was more than seven days old by the time England's innings took place under lights.

As is the case in New Zealand, it was a ploy clearly designed to suit the home side's slow medium-pace dribblers, Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris, whose accurate but paceless deliveries have long been a feature of their success at one-day cricket.

But if the volume of runs was compromised by the pitch, the game was nevertheless a 25,000 sell-out, and people were jammed into every nook and cranny, presumably to help pay for for the new lights, which cost $NZ3.5m (pounds 1.5m).

During the interval between innings, Cairns, along with the television presenter Paul Holmes and a squad of Christchuch police constables, had their heads shorn in order to raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation.

Cairns apparently had a No 4 cut but, if he started the match as Samson, he finished as Delilah, with Stewart clouting his first ball for a mighty six over long-on. He never recovered and his four overs cost an exorbitant 25 runs.