England move into new territory but trail New Zealand in series

New Zealand's Kane Williamson hits a six against England at The Ageas Bowl.
New Zealand's Kane Williamson hits a six against England at The Ageas Bowl.
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England hit a notable new high at the Ageas Bowl, but still ended up losing to New Zealand by three wickets after centuries by Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, to go 2-1 down in the Royal London Series.

The hosts posted more than 300 for the third successive time, a sequence they had never previously achieved in one-day internationals, but in omitting to also use up their overs England were all out for 302 in 45.2.

It meant they were vulnerable to a New Zealand counter-punch which was expertly delivered in a national-record third-wicket stand of 206.

As at The Oval two days earlier when they put on 121 together, Williamson (118) and Taylor (110) took few chances as they dominated a chase eventually completed with an over to spare.

Taylor had some luck on his side en route to his second century in three days, and Williamson was pure class – although he too was badly-dropped at mid-off on 109 by Mark Wood off David Willey on a day England would doubtless by then like to have started again.

Their batsmen had kept swinging, in accordance with their new commitment to attack at all costs, and half-centuries from Yorkshire’s Joe Root (54), Eoin Morgan (71) and Ben Stokes (68) gave them substance – before they lost their last five wickets for 14 runs.

Batting was a slightly hazardous pursuit initially, albeit one for which Morgan had opted under cloud cover.

Alex Hales edged debutant Ben Wheeler (3-63) to second slip, and then without addition Jason Roy missed an unsightly drive to be bowled by Tim Southee (3-44).

But Root and Morgan put on a breezy century stand, revisiting their innings which set the tone for this series at Edgbaston on Tuesday.

Root went unluckily, bowled off his pads after advancing to Mitchell Santner.

Then Morgan, who had luck on his side on several occasions, could not cash in a century – after passing 50 for the third time in succession – and was bowled, sweeping at Williamson.

England still appeared to have the perfect platform at 194-4 with 17 overs remaining and, for New Zealand, the alarming sight of Jos Buttler walking in to join Stokes.

Buttler was to be just a bit-part player this time, edging a wide one from Southee behind.

Stokes was in full flow, though, and soon Sam Billings too.

At his third attempt, the Kent batsman proved himself no impostor in England’s brave new world.

His 34 off 16 balls, in a stand of 61 off 34, was as contemporary as you can get with a series of ramps overs his left shoulder among his six fours. But it did not prove sustainable and after he was caught at short third-man, Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid steered a catch to point first ball and Stokes was bowled heaving at Wheeler’s last delivery, England had only two wickets left for the last six overs.

They were soon gone too, and the only passing consolation was that the Kiwis would still need more than six-an-over to prevail.

New Zealand also lost their openers early, Willey finding inswing with just his second delivery to have Martin Guptill lbw for two – at the ground where he smashed an unbeaten 189 on his previous ODI visit – and Brendon McCullum hit in front too by the slippery Wood.

From 36-2, though, Willamson and Taylor took over.

England did not help themselves.

They dropped Taylor three times, twice by Buttler who anticipated brilliantly but could not hold on off the full face of a paddle sweep at Rashid on 17 and then 50 runs later missed a second chance diving to his right off Wood.

Williamson’s 88-ball hundred, his seventh in this format, was chanceless and enough for victory even after he and Taylor were gone, caught at mid-off and dragging on to Willey (3-69), to induce a minor late wobble.

England made no secret before the start of this series of their willingness to learn from the modern ODI example set by New Zealand.

They could do worse than review Williamson’s methods, when they have time – if they can stand it.