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February 12, 2008
If England thought things couldn't get worse after their defeat on Saturday they were wrong. Very wrong. In one of their most abject displays in recent times they crashed to a humiliating 10-wicket defeat, their fourth in history, with nearly half the overs to spare after the match was cut down to 36 overs per side by rain. England lost eight wickets in 20.1 overs after the interruption, then watched helplessly in the field as Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum flayed the bowlers to all corners of Seddon Park.
The way the game changed after the two-and-a-half hour stoppage was mind-boggling. England went from 90 for 2 to 158 all out, adding to their woes with more embarrassing running. Just as in the first match at Wellington, three wickets fell to major misjudgments, including the top-scorer Alastair Cook for 53. Even with a little helping hand from Duckworth-Lewis New Zealand only needed 165. It didn't prove a contest.
As they had done in Wellington, McCullum and Ryder laid down the gauntlet to England's bowlers by advancing down the pitch from the start and in doing so proved that the surface was a belter. Last year New Zealand chased down 347 to beat Australia and at today's rate they could have reached 400.
McCullum had a life when Phil Mustard couldn't hold a flashing edge in James Anderson's opening over and Ryder was dropped by Owais Shah at slip on 8 but England didn't ever look like fighting back from their batting failures. Admittedly the ball spent plenty of time in the air, but only when it was carrying to the boundary. Their opening stand was a new record for New Zealand against England.
Anderson went for 15 off his second over and Stuart Broad's opening effort was carted for 13 as he repeatedly served up help-yourself short balls to Ryder. Even the normally reliable Ryan Sidebottom was cannon-fodder as Ryder picked off boundaries at will through the off and leg side. Ryder may not be the conventional figure for a cricketer, but he hits the ball with modern power and has breathed new life into New Zealand's top order. He reached his first half century off 39 balls with a huge six over long-on to huge cheers from the excited crowd.
The only reason that McCullum's effort perhaps won't gain the same coverage is that he has done it before. But some of his striking was breathtaking as he charged the quick bowlers and cleared the leg side boundary at will, reaching his half century off 27 thrilling deliveries. When Graeme Swann was introduced - like a lamb to the slaughter - he was thumped as the feeding frenzy continued. The match was neatly encapsulated when Sidebottom spilled a simple return catch off Ryder in the dying moments of the match. This time he had no-one to blame but himself.
England hit new lows with their performance, but New Zealand pulled them back from a promising start with such efficiency that it was easy to forget that the visitors ever had a foothold in the match. Shortly after the resumption Kevin Pietersen was trapped lbw moving across the crease to Michael Mason. Next ball Paul Collingwood was run out for the second consecutive innings when he undervalued the strength of Jacob Oram's arm from third man. The collapse was in full motion when Shah was bowled between bat and pad by Mason, who justified his selection ahead of the spinner Jeetan Patel.
England's slump caused Cook to lose the momentum he had gathered before the rain, although he still went to fifty off 64 balls. The onus was on him to bat through the innings and he wasn't at fault for his dismissal. Ravi Bopara, playing like a man bereft of confidence, tapped the ball straight to Ross Taylor at cover and set off for a hopeless single leaving Cook with no chance of making his ground. It was England's fifth run-out in 16 dismissals in the series and ranked near the top for kamikazeness.
Chris Martin had caused the early damage with two wickets in two balls, the second of which was down to a stunning catch from McCullum. Ian Bell tried to leave his first delivery but found the ball running off the face of the bat. McCullum flung himself horizontally in front of first slip and held a blinding one-handed grab. England had appeared to be recovering from the setback as Cook and Pietersen ticked along, but when the two teams emerged from the dressing-room after the rain delay only one side turned up.