New Zealand cruise to easy win
New Zealand 7 for 318 (Vincent 76, Taylor 71, Oram 54*, Plunkett 3-54) beat England 8 for 260 (Joyce 66, Nixon 49) by 58 runs
England have been looking for positives despite winning only one game on their three-month tour of Australia. Their latest loss provided one clear positive: their horror trip will almost certainly end a week early after New Zealand's comprehensive 58-run victory all but ensured the CB Series finals would be between Australia and New Zealand.
The impressive target of 319 - set up by Lou Vincent, Ross Taylor and a final Jacob Oram blitz - was too much for England and despite a half-century from Ed Joyce the New Zealand slow bowlers chipped away and drove their team home. England had nobody who could emulate Oram's 54 from 33 balls and by the 36-over mark the chase had virtually been abandoned, with 11 an over needed and Andrew Flintoff back in the pavilion.
It wasn't all the fault of the England batsmen; their woeful fielding and wayward bowling meant the target was considerably higher than it should have been. Vincent, who made 76, and Taylor (71) were each lucky to survive early chances and a sloppy 25 wides and no-balls also hurt.
New Zealand also made a messy finish to their fielding effort, with Peter Fulton and James Franklin dropping simple opportunities. They allowed Paul Nixon to give the crowd some late entertainment with 49 from 47 deliveries including a couple of sixes as the score shuffled along to 8 for 260. It was a limp finish after Joyce and Ian Bell built a solid platform from which a final assault could have been launched.
The pair put on 72 for the second wicket and the decision to move Joyce up the order to open seemed a good one. Bell was again out softly for 31, chipping Jeetan Patel to wide mid-on, but while Joyce remained England's chances lived on. However, a direct-hit run-out removed Joyce for 66 in the 28th over and the wheels fell off. Joyce pushed the ball to mid-on and hustled through looking for a quick single only to see Vincent race across to collect the ball and hurl down the stumps from side-on.
Joyce played sensibly early before starting to find the boundary and by the time he reached his maiden ODI half-century he had faced only 60 balls. The other half of the plan to restructure the top order - the demotion of Andrew Strauss to No. 4 - was less successful. Strauss' ordinary tour continued when he was the victim of some terrific cricket from Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum. Vettori saw Strauss (12) advancing and speared in a quicker delivery that went between the batsman's legs and McCullum completed a neat stumping.
Nothing in the England innings was up to the standard New Zealand set with the bat. Oram helped his team hammer 38 from their last two overs and his consecutive sixes off Chris Tremlett in the 49th completed a terrible day for Tremlett, who went for 1 for 72.
Vincent, like Oram, was a late addition to the New Zealand squad and for the second game in a row the pair starred in their side's 300-plus totals. Vincent's 137-run third-wicket partnership with Taylor was costly for England; Vincent had been dropped on 33 by Ian Bell at cover and Taylor was stumped on 30 only for the square-leg umpire to rule it not out without referring the decision to the third umpire.
Monty Panesar's 2 for 35 from ten overs kept England in the contest but the Oram damage - as well as a number of unacceptable misfields giving away runs - was still to come. Liam Plunkett broke through twice in his opening spell to have New Zealand 2 for 54 from nine overs after choosing to bat but the Vincent-Taylor partnership was decisive.
They took few risks and found most of their boundaries from regulation shots played into gaps. When Taylor finally took a chance and tried to hit Paul Collingwood over long on he was caught, proving their conservative approach to build their total had perhaps been the best idea.
New Zealand's sudden return to batting form comes at the right time to create some interest in the CB Series finals - unless England provide a remarkable finish to their unremarkable tour and somehow steal the right to face Australia for the tri-series title.
Brydon Coverdale is an editorial assistant of Cricinfo