England Lions v New Zealand A, Tri-series, Bristol August 8, 2014

Bairstow masks weak Lions display

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Bristol

New Zealand A 282 (Brownlie 115, Willey 5-62) beat England Lions 260 (Bairstow 123, Bracewell 3-43) by 22 runs

England Lions' 22-run defeat flattered them. At no point during the chase were they in a position to avoid risk or push the ball about to maintain an effective rate. Were it not for a world-class knock from Jonny Bairstow, the margin of defeat would have been sizeable enough to worry about England's ODI reserves.

As it is, Bairstow's 123 off 116 balls, which featured 14 boundaries and the addition of 212 runs from entrance to exit, is an unmistakable plus. While the New Zealand A attack were not challenging by ODI standards, they were a competent and calm unit until challenged by a brutal assault from a player who last played international 50-over cricket in September 2012.

At 48 for 4, he and Jason Roy played smartly to put on 95 in 16.3 overs; pushing fielders around and occasionally beating them. Ten overs more between these two, with their ability to clear the rope, and who knows what might have happened.

New Zealand A owe the win to a centurion of their own, Dean Brownlie. Without his contribution of 115 from 107 balls, they would have fallen well short of par. He held the innings together with a fairly simple approach that saw him wait for loose deliveries and ensure he used the quick outfield to put them away effectively. Even he must have been surprised by the extent of the looseness offered up.

The Lions can also look back ruefully on a handful of opportunities to remove Brownlie that did not go their way. On 39, he was left stranded after playing a late cut and taking a few steps down the pitch, only for Jason Roy at backward point to pull off a brilliant diving stop. Roy then set himself and fired at the stumps in an instant, but missed by a matter of inches, with Brownlie scampering back to his crease.

Two overs later, Craig Overton was sure he had trapped him in front for 45 but the umpire disagreed. The final reprieve, when Brownlie had already passed fifty, was the trickiest of the lot, as Tom Smith at midwicket dived and got one hand on a thumping pull shot that would have been a stunning catch.

As it was, they had to wait until the end of the 42nd over for his wicket, by which time he had taken advantage of some wayward bowling to reach three figures. For the second time this week, England struggled to offer much control with the ball.

Steven Finn came in for Boyd Rankin, having not made the Test XI at Old Trafford, and bowled briskly but was also guilty of not nailing his lengths. Only his Middlesex teammate Ravi Patel was able to regulate his overs, going wicketless but drastically improving on his economy rate at Taunton. Despite having gone for more than seven-an-over on Wednesday, he was not afraid to give the ball some air and imparted a good amount of drift that New Zealand, albeit worse players of spin than Sri Lanka, were unable to counter into runs.

One other bright spot with the ball was David Willey, who returned 5 for 62. Not that you could tell from his demeanour at the end of the match; downcast and shoeless after what was a frustrating day at the office, despite his personal success. When he joined Bairstow at the crease, the ask was for just over eight runs in each of the remaining 10 overs. He certainly has the capacity to have seen his side home, especially in the mood Bairstow was in. But, as frank as ever, he reflected that his game, after a period of recovery from a back injury sustained away with the England Performance Programme in the winter, still needs work to get it back to what it was last year.

He was also honest about his display with the ball. In the Northamptonshire dressing room he is revered for his direct approach. There will be times it will get him into trouble, but his knack of being direct with himself will only be of benefit to him as a player.

"I didn't really make them work for their boundaries which made it a bit easier for them," he admitted. "It's an area I need to work on. A couple of grabs at the end from skiers just happened to be off my bowling this week. I've got some work to do still, but five wickets in a one day game, I'll take it."

In the end, it was not glamour that won it for New Zealand but an ingrained efficiency that was all too apparent in the field, where they tightened in the ring during the second Powerplay and held onto some tricky catches. The best of the lot saw Roy snared by Tom Latham - a diving grab at midwicket - before similar at cover did for Bairstow.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andy on August 9, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    Hi Vithushan - thanks for pointing out that your brief was to focus on England. That explains a bit, because it was surprising to read a match report focusing on the players in the losing team. In fairness I suppose this is the middle of the English cricket season, so the England team is more topical. But as a NZ fan, when our team wins, it gets tiresome to read how the other team under-performed rather than how our guys won it. For instance this article discusses 8 English players, and only Brownlie for NZ (with Latham name-checked for a catch). Just trying to provide some constructive feedback. Have a great weekend : )

  • jared on August 9, 2014, 10:01 GMT

    @ vithushan ehantharajah, good on you for the apology, i too thought your comment was a bit insulting of a very young and promising bowling attack, henry especially is a fine bowler and is definately of odi standard, just ask the indian top order, bracewell and sohdi have gone one better and have played test cricket so while it might of been a flippant comment i thought it was a bit on the nose but good on you for apologizing, not to the fans but to the young guys busting a nut to make the black caps, its not like you had too.

  • Dummy on August 9, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    Well played NZA, I too was at the match and NZ were clearly the better team. And while I agree this match report did do somewhat injustice to the NZ performance,it doesn't change the result.Im sure it wasn't your intention to come across as patronising,but at the same time it certainly did.Cheers.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    @Andy_Nelson & @TFJ100: Hi guys - appreciate the comments. I should state that I, too was at the game but you both make fair points; Henry was impressive and I can see why the line TFJ highlighted sounds like faint praise. Honestly didn't mean to come across patronising. My remit was to focus on England given debate and changing nature of our sides, plus the fact I know much more about them as players and individuals. I think I was probably a bit harsh on the other NZ bowlers given how they reacted when Bairstow began tee-ing off. But apologies if you felt this was too one-eyed - certainly wasn't my intention when writing it.

  • Paulo on August 9, 2014, 7:32 GMT

    Good to see more players getting a chance. Especially Smith and Willey, as we don't have another white-ball allrounder other than Bopara. Having an extra allrounder would help the balance of the team.

    Unfortunately Vince and Taylor failed again. Bar that 90 the other day, Vince's second half of the season has been dreadful. Taylor has had a poor season. A great shame on both parts considering they are two of the most talented young batsmen in the country.

    Another good innings from Roy. Considering his county season as well as these Lions performances, I think he's done enough to deserve a ODI place. Same with Hales. Both seem to have put their last season championship horrors behind them and are batting much more sensibly.

    Good to see Bairstow back in the runs. I just hope he's given a chance to improve his keeping.

    With Willey at 8 you'd say there's a lot of batting. Shows how disappointing the chase really was.

  • Torben on August 8, 2014, 23:13 GMT

    Being at home in Australia, I couldn't watch the game, but "While the New Zealand A attack were not challenging by ODI standards, they were a competent and calm unit" seems a little damning by faint praise.

    I prefer Andy Nelson's assessment from someone who watched the game. Looking forward to seeing more of Matt Henry and hopeful Doug Bracewell can get back to his best form. Well done NZ A and hopefully you can lift against SL A and post back to back wins.

  • Garry on August 8, 2014, 21:20 GMT

    Even though we won the only bright spot is that Matt Henry bowled well, a couple of imports and one on the way out scored all our runs.

  • Andy on August 8, 2014, 20:03 GMT

    Well played NZ A! England were beaten by a better team today. From my vantage point at the ground Henry and Bracewell were clearly the most talented bowlers on display - from either team. Matt Henry in particular troubled the English with his sharp pace and intelligent line, and is a great prospect to step up to NZ's top team. Fantastic to see Dean Brownlie make a century too. He's another world class player, and appears hungry for another shot in the Black Caps.

  • Nicholas on August 8, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    In games where Bopara is under-bowled, England (Lions) always seem to lose. If the likes of Finn-knee are all over the shop, Bopara is a great bowling asset in these formats who should be trusted more. Great knock by Bairstow, but not much support by the looks of things.

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