Levels England series
Dunedin, New Zealand
New Zealand took a gripping series to a decider as Ross Taylor produced one of the greatest one-day innings in staging a magnificent chase in Dunedin to hunt down an imposing 336. What made Taylor’s career-best unbeaten 181 from 147 balls even more remarkable was that the latter part was played after he injured himself diving to make a second run shortly after reaching three figures.
Incredibly, New Zealand got home with three balls to spare when Henry Nicholls swung Tom Curran over the leg side after Colin de Grandhomme hammered 23 off 11 balls to help take the pressure off a limping Taylor. However, in fading light, it was Taylor that did most of the finishing as he took a six and a four in the space of three balls against Chris Woakes in the 47th over, then took him over midwicket again at the start of the 49th to remove any doubt. New Zealand still haven’t lost at this ground. After today, they may feel they never will.
It was another wonderfully absorbing contest between these teams, back to the high-scoring variety seen in 2015 in England. Centuries from Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root were the centrepiece of England’s innings, but they suffered a middle-order meltdown as they lost 8 for 46 to slump from 267 for 1 to 313 for 9. Still, it was the second-highest total on the ground – it would become England’s second-highest first-innings in defeat.
Taylor combined with Tom Latham – the same pair that did so much to win the opening match of the series – to add 187 in 25.5 overs for the fourth wicket as New Zealand recovered from 2 for 2, and then the loss of Kane Williamson when replays showed he hadn’t edged the ball.
Taylor, who gave one chance on 84 when Bairstow couldn’t gather a catch at deep midwicket, brought up his 19th ODI century from 98 balls, but shortly after, on 109, suffered an injury when making his ground for a scampered second. He was patched up by the physio – who made multiple trips to the middle – and hauled himself between the wickets, but largely opted to have a swing. He sent both Ben Stokes and Adil Rashid out of the ground, taking his sixes tally to six, with the fifth of them landing on the roof of a building adjacent to the sightscreen.
Latham played superbly in support, having arrived when Williamson was given caught behind pulling at Stokes’ first delivery. Colin Munro had earlier reviewed a stone-dead lbw first ball against Mark Wood, so the New Zealand captain had no recourse. When the asking rate touched nine-an-over, Latham took two sixes in three balls off Wood and Stokes. He might have been lbw twice, once to Moeen Ali and once to Adil Rashid, but was so far down the pitch on both occasions that the umpires were perfectly in their right to say not out
Latham fell to Tom Curran’s slower-ball, finding mid-off with 63 needed from 48 balls. De Grandhomme was promoted and struck his first two balls for four, followed by two sixes off Curran in the 44th over to firmly swing things New Zealand’s way. Woakes went for just three off the 45th and Curran then removed de Grandhomme, but there would be no denying Taylor.
England will wonder how they have not wrapped up the series. When Bairstow and Root were together adding 190 in 27.2 overs, they were on course to challenge 400. But Bairstow’s dismissal to Munro sparked a horrendous collapse, as Ish Sodhi bagged a career-best 4 for 58. After the top three, the next batsmen to reach double figures were Rashid and Curran at Nos. 9 and 10.
England had raced out of the blocks, reaching 77 off the 10-over Powerplay against some inconsistent bowling and fallible fielding. Sodhi broke through with his second ball, Roy top-edging to short fine leg, but that just set the stage for Bairstow and Roy.
Bairstow reached his third ODI century – all made as an opener – from 83 deliveries while Root reached his from 99 balls, although that came in the midst of England’s late slump. For Root, it was his first century in 26 international innings – in which time he has passed fifty on 12 occasions – while for Bairstow it broke a sequence against Australia and New Zealand where had missed the chance to convert a few starts.
Such was the way Bairstow, given a life on 74 by Mitchell Santner at cover, was progressing, that Roy’s England record 180 – made against Australia in Melbourne – was in danger. Yet things were about to change very quickly. Bairstow skied an off-cutter and Jos Buttler’s promotion to No. 4 lasted two balls when he chipped a catch back to Sodhi.—AFP