Morgan frustrated but England's new spirit not dampened
Even as England slid towards defeat at The Oval, there remained a thrilling sense of possibility in the air. Sadly, it was intermingled with the rain and when the umpires took the players off with a little more than six overs remaining, England seven wickets down and behind on Duckworth-Lewis-Stern, the boos from the crowd were not just because an evening's entertainment was being curtailed - they carried with them a sense that England were being denied a chance of victory.
England's prospects had begun to look bleak when Eoin Morgan, who made 88 from 47 balls, was one of three wickets to fall in four overs, leaving England on 275 for 7, still 124 from victory. But Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett kept England in touch with the asking rate, until the point that rain began to fall with 54 required from 37 balls.
When the players returned after a 50-minute delay, the equation had been reduced to 34 runs in 2.1 overs. Morgan said the message in the dressing room was "It's our game to win" but despite Plunkett hitting England's 14th six of the innings - equalling the record they set in the first ODI at Edgbaston on Tuesday - they eventually fell short.
"Considering we got so close in the chase, it's a little bit disappointing at the end," Morgan said. "It's a huge ask, not only to chase down 399 but to have 34 to chase in 13 balls, given that we set it up so deep, the guys were in and the momentum was with us - it was very disappointing that it did rain."
Asked if he thought that England had got the worst of the DLS method - an updated version of the original Duckworth-Lewis formula that was first used at the World Cup - Morgan indicated he thought the system could still produce unsatisfactory results. "I think it happens a lot in T20 cricket, probably not so much in 50-over cricket," he said, "but I think as the game evolves as it has done, particularly in 50-over cricket, Duckworth-Lewis could be looked at."
Ross Taylor, who scored an unbeaten century as New Zealand piled up 398 for 5 in their 50 overs, said that the break had certainly helped his side, as they held their nerve when the teams got back out to level the series at 1-1.
"When we did come off it was probably slightly in our favour, they still would have had to have batted very well," Taylor said. "But definitely the rain did help us out, coming in and needing 34 off 2.1 overs, it's a tough ask. The way Plunkett and Rashid batted, got themselves back in the game with a crucial partnership, if the rain didn't come it could have been a different story."
Despite defeat, there were further encouraging signs for England after their 210-run victory earlier in the week. An 85-run opening stand between Jason Roy and Alex Hales got the innings off to a flying start, before Morgan provided further proof of his improved form during exhilarating partnerships of 63 with Ben Stokes and 96 with Jos Buttler.
Morgan, electricity crackling through him as he repeatedly struck the spin of Nathan McCullum and Mitchell Santner over the ropes, was on course to smash the record for England's fastest one-day hundred when he fell. That England, who will assess the fitness of Chris Jordan after he suffered a side strain while bowling, got so close was down to the sense of freedom - most notably with the bat - that Morgan said made up for the side's relative inexperience.
"We're enjoying this brand of cricket and certainly having the guys in the changing room to play in that way naturally - not making it such a big deal," Morgan said. "The guys are quite young, I think Liam Plunkett's the oldest at 30, so there's a huge amount of potential and talent to work with. That's great for any captain and backroom staff."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick