The weather was bitterly cold at Centennial Park, Oamaru today, but nothing was chillier than the performance of the England women's cricket team, just a week and a half out from the start of the 2000 CricInfo World Cup.
In the first of three full one-day internationals designed to build the form and confidence of the two teams involved, New Zealand defeated England by the margin of 165 runs.
New Zealand captain Emily Drumm scored her first one-day international hundred today, making 116 from 152 deliveries, her team reaching a total of 275 for 5 in their fifty overs. Drumm outscored the entire England innings, the visitors struggling to a miserable fifty-over score of 110 for 7.
Out of all the numbers from today's game, one stat is the most chilling of all: England scored the same number of runs in a full fifty overs that New Zealand accumulated in their final twelve.
New Zealand wicketkeeper Rebecca Rolls, promoted to opener, got proceedings off to a breezy start with a 28-ball 31. Debbie Hockley (67 from 70 balls) shared a 122-run partnership with Drumm which spanned 25 overs, before Haidee Tiffen pitched in with a run-a-ball 29.
New Zealand appeared for most of the way to be on track for a score in the low 200's, until an uninspiring England bowling attack felt the wrath of a late Drumm/Tiffen onslaught.
Sarah Collyer (1/28 from ten overs) was the best of the England bowlers, but captain Clare Connor continued last year's baffling strategy of using strike bowler Melissa Reynard as fourth change - Reynard being despatched for 1/40 from five overs when finally brought into the attack.
Drumm's decision to give off-spinner Clare Nicholson the new ball paid dividends, when she removed England opener Charlotte Edwards (1) in her first over. England slumped to 10 for 3 after nine overs. Opening batsman Claire Taylor struggled for more than 22 overs, scoring 12 from 63 deliveries before becoming Rebecca Rolls' fourth dismissal of the innings.
The last wicket to fall in the match was that of Sarah Collyer (0) at the start of the 39th over. For the remaining twelve overs, Jane Cassar (top score for England with 33*) and Laura Harper (6* from 41 balls) extracted 28 painful runs over a period in which NZ made 110 earlier in the day. By this time, the game, if not its participants, had frozen to death.
Best bowlers for the World Cup hosts were Nicholson (2/17 from ten), Katrina Keenan (0/14 from ten), and Rachel Pullar (2/9 from five).
There are two more matches in this series, both at Timaru, on Tuesday and Wednesday. England have much to do if they are to be taken seriously when World Cup time comes around.