England v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Lord's June 28, 2008

We can walk away the better team - Vettori

It made for instructive viewing to see Daniel Vettori celebrate his three wickets today

Calm and composed: Daniel Vettori doesn't let emotions get the better of him as he removes Ravi Bopara © Getty Images
It made for instructive viewing to see Daniel Vettori celebrate his three wickets today. Celebrate is perhaps the wrong word to use, since his merriment amounted to no more than a casual amble down the pitch, a placid smile and a shake of the hands - a far cry from his and New Zealand's fist-pumping at The Oval on Wednesday evening. Dare it be suggested, Vettori's docile celebrations matched New Zealand's quiet confidence over winning this game, and their 3-1 series victory marked an unlikely denouement of a difficult tour.

That they reached the heights of 266 for 5 owed much to Scott Styris and Jacob Oram, two of New Zealand's most experienced, each of whom cracked aggressive fifties to take the momentum away from England. The hosts had New Zealand struggling on 124 for 4 at one stage, after Brendon McCullum and Jamie How had fought hard to put on 39 in 9.5 difficult overs.

"I think it was a tough wicket early on, and I think our openers actually set it up: the ability to bat time and get through a tricky stage," Vettori said. "Scott Styris and Jacob Oram took the game a little bit away from England with some great hitting. The last ten overs was fantastic - and for me and Scotty [Styris], bowling to their middle-order is a lot easier than their top-order, so the guys who picked up early wickets early did a wonderful job for us.

"We just wanted to win the series. The tough thing for us would've been if we'd been 2-0 down. We would have looked back to Edgbaston [second ODI] and what happened there. This way we can walk away, 3-1, no drama, and know we were the better team."

If New Zealand's game lacked anything at the start of the series, it was their characteristic belief; that nagging need at the back of their minds to prove people wrong, to justify their fourth-place in the ODI table. After the Test series, in which they were bossed about to lose 2-0, few observers gave them hope of resurrecting their form in the one-day series, and their confidence was further stunted in thumping defeats in the Twenty20 at Old Trafford and the first ODI at Chester-le-Street. New Zealand were forlorn, drifting nowhere, and yet have turned their fortunes around remarkably quickly.

"A lot of it's to do with experience. In the Test team you've got four or five guys who have played less than ten matches and you've got to put the emphasis on the senior guys to step up. At times we did...but [at] the Trent Bridge Test we let ourselves down and it was a very poor performance.

"We talked pretty long and hard and critiqued a lot of individuals about what they've been doing, asked the players to stand up - particularly the senior players," Vettori said. "When you've got guys who have played less than four or five one-dayers it's tough to sit there and say 'right, you carry the side.' So, guys like myself, Brendon McCullum, Styris, Oram, Kyle Mills...I think throughout the last four games they've stood up and, one time or another, have been the leading performers."

Whereas New Zealand have rediscovered their form, England let theirs slip. Overflowing with confidence after the Tests, they began well with a 114-win at Chester-le-Street but, as Vettori pointed out, England's own inexperience cost them.

"They don't play as much one-day cricket as you think," he said."I was very surprised that Owais Shah has only played 40 one-day internationals, and you compare that to an Indian or a Pakistan player who racks up one hundred games in next to no time, it makes it more difficult. We're playing a lot of one-day cricket; I'm not exactly sure how much England are. But they've certainly got the talent there to be a force in world cricket."

Of course, ODIs are New Zealand's comfort blanket, a format they prefer and one in which they excel. And they haven't simply edged past England in this particular series; 3-1 is almost, but not quite, a walloping. It opens up the intriguing question: how good might New Zealand become, and are they realistic contenders for the Champions Trophy in Pakistan?

"It's a good one-day team. We cover most of our bases with what you need in a one-day set-up: good hitters, good bowlers and a good fielding side on our day. We've got the makings of being a team that can compete in the Champions Trophy, and it's now about time we go away and try and win these tournaments instead of trying to maintain that ranking. We'll go away to Pakistan thinking we've got a chance of winning."

The despondent figure who left Trent Bridge a few weeks ago was nowhere to be seen today. Confident, even bullish, Vettori's calm leadership - not unlike his predecessor - has ensured that New Zealand fly home, via a brief stay in Aberdeen, with their heads held high. It is a lesson in character that England's one-day team would do well to learn from.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo