ENGLAND last night fell agonisingly short in another remarkable run-fest as New Zealand inched the outcome on Duckworth-Lewis at The Oval to level the Royal London Series at 1-1.
Captain Eoin Morgan led a brave bid to chase 398 for five on a superb batting surface, only for a rain interruption to make England’s task even harder on a late D/L recalculation.
Morgan hit 88 from 47 balls – and even after he departed at the start of the powerplay, the eighth half-century stand of a thrilling match between Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett kept England in with a chance.
But when they returned after a rain break, they needed 34 more from 13 balls with three wickets left.
It was an exacting equation which proved 13 runs beyond them, although not before yet more drama as Tim Southee leapt high to both prevent the match’s 28th six and throw the ball back to Trent Boult at long on to brilliantly dismiss Rashid off Nathan McCullum.
Ross Taylor (119no) and Kane Williamson (93) therefore helped the Kiwis gain the day in what appeared at times to be an astonishing extended highlights package of sixes and boundaries in front of a rapt full house.
Just four days ago, England piled up a national record 408 for nine at Edgbaston for their highest-margin runs victory of 210. This time, needing to prove they could sustain another display of big hitting in pursuit of a record total, they might have done so without bad weather.
After Brendon McCullum chose to bat first, it was Taylor’s 87-ball century that allowed New Zealand to up the ante. It contained three sixes and eight fours, several heaved leg-side as Chris Jordan suffered most – equalling Steve Harmison’s all-time England most expensive figures, one for 97 before he left the field injured one short of his ten-over allotment.
Openers McCullum and Martin Guptill had set the tone for more adventure, putting on 61 in less than eight overs.
McCullum soon forced England’s first change with 20 of the 21 runs taken off the sixth over from Jordan. The introduction of Plunkett did for the New Zealand captain, though, tucking up a pull which looped into the leg-side ring.
Guptill had a near run-a-ball 50 when he too fell to the pull – middling Ben Stokes but straight into the safe hands of Jordan.
Williamson batted beautifully and was closing on his seventh ODI hundred when he departed with a touch of controversy after being surprised by a Stokes full-toss. The delivery was high enough for a gesture by umpire Tim Robinson to be interpreted by some as a no-ball call.
But as England adopted double-teapot stances and Williamson waited, the dismissal was confirmed after Plunkett’s low catch at mid on – ending an 88-ball innings containing 12 fours and a six.
England missed two tough chances to get rid of Taylor, on just seven when Jason Roy could not hold a blinder at point off Plunkett and on 40 as Joe Root put another sharp one down at cover off Stokes. He made them pay with his 13th ODI hundred as 166 runs came in the last 15 overs and New Zealand reached the highest total ever made against England.
The chase was highly improbable, but got off to an encouraging start thanks to openers Alex Hales (54) and Roy who saw off nine overs of Boult and Southee in a stand of 85.
Spin then caused England problems, varieties of the sweep proving the downfall for Roy – ‘reversing’ McCullum to point – and then Root and Hales, both mistiming Mitchell Santner into the hands of leg-side fielders.
Stokes helped Morgan put England back on track in a stand of 63, until he made room to Mitchell McClenaghan and edged behind. But Morgan’s partnership of 96 in 64 balls with Jos Buttler rattled the tourists.
McCullum responded by turning again to Boult – and the left-armer repaid him with the wicket of Buttler, caught-behind cutting. Having hit six fours and six sixes, Morgan then picked out deep cover off McClenaghan.
Still England refused to go quietly, Rashid and Plunkett demonstrating how far they bat down – only for rain to stop them in their tracks.