Bates and Ruck help New Zealand level the series
New Zealand Women 147 for 8 (Bates 68, Hazell 4-19) beat England Women 143 for 8 (Sarah Taylor 73, Ruck 3-19) by 4 runs
A half-century by Suzie Bates, followed by three wickets for Sian Ruck, helped New Zealand square the series at the Rose Bowl despite a heroic 73 from Sarah Taylor.
After the opening fixture was dominated by spin this was a much more free-flowing contest that fluctuated one way and the other before finally settling in New Zealand's favour. Twice the tourists took control, first in their batting innings and then again in their fielding effort, only to see England fight back strongly, but they eventually held off the challenge for a deserved win.
Set 148 after Bates and Sara McGlashan's century stand helped post a competitive total, England slipped to 29 for 4, as some ill-judicious shots combined with Ruck's accurate left-arm swing left the home side floundering. But Sarah Taylor was joined by Jenny Gunn to revive England's hopes and leave them needing just 38 from the final 34 balls. Having worked their way into a strong position though, England lost their last five wickets for 26 runs to give New Zealand the spoils.
That England even got so close looked unlikely after the batsmen had faltered so badly early on. Charlotte Edwards fell to the first delivery of the innings - which she didn't even face - when Sarah Taylor's crisp drive was deflected off the bowler to cannon into middle stump. If it wasn't quite the worst possible start, it was close to it and brought Claire Taylor, still searching for her mesmeric 2009 form, to the crease.
Given her record and experience she needed to be the architect of the chase but instead she scratched around, making 2 off 7 balls, before aiming - and missing - a leg-side heave at Sian Ruck. It betrayed a player short of confidence and match practice.
Ruck then struck twice more, removing Laura Marsh and Lydia Greenway in the space of three deliveries to leave England tottering. Sarah Taylor, however, stood firm throughout. She started slowly but soon grew in confidence to pick off regular boundaries through the leg side on her way to a half-century from 44 balls. Gunn at the other end was almost as effective and the pair put on 80 to carry England right back in the contest.
The game changed with the introduction of Amy Satterthwaite, who didn't even play in the opening match, in the 15th over. Gunn aimed a routine clip into the leg side only to find a leading edge that looped tamely to Watkins at mid -off. Danielle Wyatt departed soon after and suddenly England were in trouble again.
Lucy Doolan's slow, looping offspinners did for Danielle Hazell and Taylor lost the momentum she had generated so effectively with Gunn. With 24 needed from 14 balls she couldn't find the boundaries like she had six times before and ended up being run-out off the final delivery of the penultimate over to seal the game for New Zealand.
If anything, the tourists would feel they should have set a lot more than the 147. Bates and McGlashan were completely dominant, picking off boundaries with powerful shots down the ground and pulling-off inventive scoops behind the wicket, to take New Zealand to 115 for 1 by the 15th over.
But a rocket throw from long off by Katherine Brunt caught McGlashan short and England, sensing an opportunity, surged back. Hazell was the best of the bowlers, finishing with 3 for 19 but it wasn't enough to prevent New Zealand setting up a winner-takes-all clash in the final match at Hove on Friday.
Sahil Dutta is assistant editor of Cricinfo