England 350 for 3 (Morgan 113, Root 106*, Hales 67) beat New Zealand 349 for 7 (Williamson 90, Elliott 55*, Guptill 53) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England entered what for them was uncharted territory when they successfully chased a target of 350 against New Zealand in the fourth Royal London ODI at Trent Bridge. It was the fourth-highest chase ever and came in England, which traditionally has not offered up such gifts readily. And they did not just chase it, they marmalised it. A seven-wicket came up with indecent haste with six overs to spare. What is going on?
What Alex Hales and Jason Roy began - Hales the dominant factor in an opening stand of 100 by the 11th over - Eoin Morgan all but completed. "You beauty," he cried as he smashed Matt Henry into the stands at deep midwicket to complete his eighth ODI hundred. He has four scores of 50-plus in the series; no England captain has achieved that before. England have four scores of 300 on the bounce. Australia have managed six, Sri Lanka five, but this is unheralded for England.
Alongside Joe Root, whose own unbeaten century was almost an afterthought, Morgan assembled a third-wicket stand of 198 in 27 overs, Root possessing finesse, Morgan a captain carrying the fight. For English cricket, this was not just any old century; it was an affirmation, a commitment to audacity that so entirely escaped England in an abject World Cup challenge. Then Morgan looked a captain out of sorts. Now he bats as if truly empowered, his 113 from 82 balls coming to grief with 41 needed when he hooked Tim Southee to fine leg.
New Zealand bowled cannily at Morgan, blocking his strengths square of the wicket, only to find him driving down the ground with rare conviction. A succession of short balls were dispensed with and a lack of proven quality gradually told. Brendon McCullum, New Zealand's combative captain, has helped to change the face of one-day cricket - his problem is that others are catching on. Nothing stays new for long.
Is it safe? McCullum might have put on a dentist's coat and adopted the persona of Christian Szell in Marathon Man after New Zealand posted 349 for 7. Nothing is safe, not in this land of inviting batting surfaces and bats with a sweeter tooth than the Honey Monster. It is important then to reflect on the influence of Steven Finn and Mark Wood for England earlier in the day. Combined figures of 2 for 100 will not attract attention but, in the terms of this contest, they were also decisive.
This was only England's third successful chase of more than 300 and, by doing so, they prevented New Zealand from securing the series and instead turned the final match at Chester-le-Street into a decider.
Their initial propulsion came primarily from Hales, his face flushed with ambition in front of his home crowd. England's 10-over Powerplay ended at 97-0 - their highest ever. Fears that a brief interruption for rain would undermine them, as it did at The Kia Oval, were banished when Hales stalked back out and immediately took 22 off Mitchell McClenaghan's first over, climaxing with two considerable leg-side sixes.
The shower, Morgan suggested, kept some zip in the wicket. And, after both openers had fallen, Hales dragging on Henry, Ross Taylor's failure to react at slip to Root's edge off Henry, on 9, also helped.
We are heading for a record number of runs in a five-match ODI series. Some countries where high scores are commonplace might be sated by such a statistic but run gluts are uncommon in England and England's attacking approach is fast reconnecting cricket with the public, a perfect scenario ahead of an Ashes series. The balance between bat and ball might be awry, but the grounds are sold out and public interest is high again.
Only rain can intrude on an appetising finale. The forecast in Chester-le-Street is for showers, so far thought to be no more than irritants, but nothing to put a dampener on an extraordinary series. As Steve Davis, umpiring in his last international, said after the players applauded him from the field: "This series... unbelievable. What a way to go!"
Kane Williamson was at the heart of New Zealand's innings. On the way he passed 3000 ODI runs in his 73rd innings, making him the fifth-fastest player to reach that landmark. He is not yet 25. It is a list that emphasises that there remains a place in one-day cricket for the surreptitious run-maker, Williamson joining Hashim Amla and Gary Kirsten, two other batsmen capable of the unobtrusive touch, as well as the two more destructive West Indians Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge.
Nothing illustrated Williamson's penchant for the understated boundary than his shot against Stokes on 50. Stokes delivered a slower ball of errant line and Williamson's glance was such that it trundled to the vacant fine leg boundary as if with a sigh. The statutory boundary music was blared out, but the DJ should have chosen Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5 - the quietest symphony - because nothing would have suited the shot more than silence. Williamson fell at deep mid-on when 90, assembled in only 70 balls, as he mistimed a drive against David Willey and picked out Stokes.
Williamson and Ross Taylor had put on 206 in 32 overs at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday, this time they were limited to a mere 101 in 16 before a well-disguised slower ball from Finn had Taylor plumb in front.
Get through this New Zealand top four and it is not as convincing, World Cup finalists or not. Grant Elliott tends to block then hit, Luke Ronchi just hits, Mitchell Santner is in his first international series. England drew back their lengths once the third-wicket fell and from 217 for 3 in the 35th over, New Zealand stalled - Elliott labouring 18 balls for his first 6 - before escaping once again.
But this is a limited England attack. Willey is the sort of aggressive cricketer likely to appear at the start of a World Cup cycle, but he disappeared for 89. England need a left-arm solution: Willey remains for the moment on three across.
Even more eye-catching was Santner's assault on Adil Rashid. Morgan's gamble to bowl out Wood and Finn in a search for wickets had looked tactically sound, but meant Rashid at the death and Santner swung him for 28 in an over, four of them leg-side sixes. It was the second highest run concession in an over in an England ODI, outdone only by Dimi Mascarenhas' 30 off India at The Oval in 2007.
Santner reached 44 in 19 balls before he toe-ended Stokes to deep cover, his promise emphatically announced. For the last over, Rashid returned again. Morgan had nodded at Root then, with Santner dismissed, recalled Rashid. Root clapped encouragement and five runs conceded, plus the wicket of Southee, allowed him to walk off with a better memory.
England will fret once the fuss dies down about more spurned catching opportunities. The most difficult just added to the thrills, but three escaped them in the first 15 overs: Finn might have hoped to cling to Martin Guptill's low drive back; Jos Buttler's failure to gather McCullum's edge off Wood provided ammunition for those who believe his long-term future is as a specialist batsman, and Guptill escaped again when Root could not hold a rasping catch at short midwicket.