England seem to be making a habit of responding well to defeats of late, although they would much rather avoid the losses altogether. New Zealand’s 269 all out, having been put in by England captain Alastair Cook, owed much to a brilliant hundred from Ross Taylor, as well as another brutal display from his successor as captain Brendon McCullum, who bludgeoned 74 from just 36 balls towards the end of the innings. The in-form James Anderson kept the hosts in check with 5-34, and England looked in complete control during their reply. Cook (78) and Ian Bell (44) put on 89 for the opening wicket, but it was a measured innings from Jonathan Trott (65*) allied to an impressive 79* from Joe Root that saw England home with 14 balls to spare. The three-match series, tied at one a piece, now goes to a decider.
Joe Root’s innings was top class, and for one so young, his temperament is mightily impressive. Arguably the most encouraging fact is that he has shown himself quite capable of adapting to both the format of cricket he is playing, and the type of innings that is required. Earmarked as a Test opener, he has played down the order in the five-day game as well as showing off his improvisational side in Twenty20 cricket. Following this game Cook highlighted the Yorkshireman’s temperament as being a key asset, and the England captain knows a thing or two about concentration. Other young players, such as James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow, have been in and out of the Test side, but Root has shown himself to be completely ready for the rigours of international cricket.
Kevin Pietersen has been rested for this series and, with recent conflicts behind him, will come back into the side following this tour. Aside from his omission, this is a full-strength side, and there are signs that the rest of the team is starting to select itself – the ideal scenario for any coach, let alone one who has only recently come into the job as in Ashley Giles’s case. Craig Kieswetter appears to have missed his chance to be the first choice wicket keeper, as Jos Buttler continues to demonstrate the reasons why he has been kept in and around the England set up for several years. Trott adds composure and patience in the likely event of a collapse, but there is creativity in the form of Eoin Morgan and a partnership capable of big runs at the top of the order in Cook and Bell. If Finn, Broad and Anderson stay fit, the bowling attack (along with spinner Graeme Swann) is as potent as any, so there is a lot to be optimistic about for England fans.
Once the last match of this series in has been played in Auckland on Saturday, there will only be one more ODI series for England – at home against New Zealand – before the ICC Champions Trophy, also on home shores, in June. Should they win the third and final game, they will have the chance to pick a first choice XI for three games and gain valuable confidence and consistency on the eve of the final instalment of the tournament. England have proven they can go all the way in a one-day tournament, but have always flattered to deceive in World Cups in recent editions. With the home crowds behind them and an injection of youth into the side, they may yet be able to pull off what would be something of a surprise and triumph in a global one day tournament.
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