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The Report by Alex Winter
February 23, 2013
England 186 for 5 (Cook 46, Morgan 39) beat New Zealand 185 (McCullum 79, Finn 3-27) by five wickets
If occasionally knocking over the bowler's end bails can be deemed a weakness, it is the only blemish against Steven Finn at the moment. His new, shorter, run up is designed to address that issue and it has taken none of the pace and aggression away from him, qualities which were too good for New Zealand as England comfortably won the deciding ODI.
The win secured their first ODI series in New Zealand since 1992 and was the result of a fine bowling display led by Finn. His excellence included three wickets that laid a platform for England to dominate in the field. He and James Anderson conceded just 18 in the opening 10 overs and New Zealand never recovered, being bowled out for a total nowhere near competitive on a dry, hard, flat surface.
England should have completed a rout but stuttered slightly towards the end of the chase. For the most part they played with the fluency expected on an excellent drop-in pitch. Brendon McCullum also did justice to the conditions with another fine captain's innings, his third consecutive half-century, but the rest of New Zealand's batsman were undone by England's dangerous, disciplined attack, the best of whom was Finn.
The wicket was tailor-made for him and he was often unplayable. His opening spell went for just five and created a crawl through the Powerplay. A regular fall of wickets stymied the recovery and Brendon McCullum's 79 in 68 balls was a lone hand.
England could have asked for no better after Alastair Cook decided to bowl. On a tiny ground - boundaries so short the venue would not be ratified by the ICC if it were a new ground - it was a remarkable performance with the ball. Finn and Anderson produced another opening 10 overs where New Zealand went nowhere and the mood remained throughout the innings.
Only when McCullum opened up in the second Powerplay did New Zealand ever look like making the progress demanded of them to be competitive. But when he was superbly taken by Anderson at deep midwicket to be last man out, New Zealand had wasted seven overs of their innings and were looking down the barrel of defeat.
Chasing such a small target against an attack with few threats, England encountered few problems. New Zealand's seamers are at least five-miles-an-hour slower than England's and provided none of the control that saw the first innings so stifled. England went at five an over in the Powerplay.
They allowed the chase to descend from overwhelming to workmanlike with some lazy strokes - Cook and Jonathan Trott both caught behind driving outside off - but it was beneficial that Eoin Morgan was able to enjoy time at the crease. He drove well off Tim Southee before lifting him over midwicket for six and striking Nathan McCullum over long-on: 39 from 24 balls was a strong reminder of Morgan's ability at a time when everyone's place is under scrutiny because of Joe Root's emergence. Root again led England home with a composed, mature innings.
But the depth of England's batting was in stark contrast to New Zealand, who were badly exposed against the new ball. McCullum was left stranded and his form would suggest he would be better utilised at the top of the order.
The inexperienced opening pair of BJ Watling and Hamish Rutherford lacked the technique to deal with Anderson and especially Finn. Watling faced him like a schoolchild in his first adult net session. He only lasted four balls from Finn. The first delivery whistled past his shoulder, the second jagged back sharply, the third seamed away beating the outside edge and the fourth was fended to second slip as Watling was beaten for pace.
Finn's opening five overs were unplayable. He found plenty of bounce and moved the new ball both ways. His second wicket was reward for his probing of Rutherford who eventually wafted at a wide delivery and edged behind.
The over was the second of consecutive wicket maidens as New Zealand made another limp effort of the opening Powerplay. Returns of 33 for 1 in Hamilton and 21 for 2 in Napier were trumped by 18 for 3 from the first 10 overs here.
Anderson matched his taller partner, with his opening five overs costing 12, and had Williamson caught behind when he uncharacteristically felt for a ball which held its line just outside off stump to take a thin edge.
Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, though lacking the nip of Anderson or the pace of Finn, continued England's form with the ball. Broad found the crucial wicket of Taylor who cut at him and got a toe-end to the keeper. Taylor had calamitously ran Grant Elliot out two overs earlier.
It meant McCullum was forced to play carefully with whoever he could find at the other end. He eventually got going in the second over of the batting Powerplay, pulling Finn for two fours before flat-batting a six over long off as Finn went fuller and fuller. It was the first time the bowlers had come under pressure and raised the question of why New Zealand hadn't tried to attack England earlier in the innings. But the brief respite from tumbling wickets didn't last long.
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