England succumbed to their first one-day home series defeat in four years after a Martin Guptill-inspired New Zealand beat the home side by 86 runs at the Ageas Bowl.
The Black Caps have now won two out of two in this NatWest international three-match series, with one game still to play, damaging the hopes of an England side looking to win the Champions Trophy, which starts next week.
A poor bowling display combined with some sloppy fielding allowed New Zealand to set a mammoth 360 to win with Guptill scoring 189 not out. Things could have been different, though, if Jonathan Trott had not dropped the Kiwi opener on 15 in what was a routine catch at midwicket from a Chris Woakes delivery.
It was Guptill’s second century in three days, and his time at the crease here allowed him to form three solid partnerships. The first was a 120-run second-wicket stand with Kane Williamson, bowled by Graeme Swann in the 25th over. The second partnership generated 11 runs less, with James Anderson breaking it up after a cool catch from Woakes got rid of the classy Ross Taylor, who scored 60 off 54.
The final partnership, though, put the knife into England. Thanks to a late flurry from captain Brendon McCullum, who hit 40 off 19, they made an impressive 118 from 50 deliveries to take the game away from England, who would suffer their first defeat in a home one-day series since Australia’s 6-1 humbling in 2009.
Without Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, England struggled in the bowling department for the second game running. Anderson was the pick of a bad bunch, taking two wickets for 65 runs—he is now just one wicket away from becoming England’s most prolific ODI bowler.
Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes were both expensive—between them they shed 160 runs without a wicket. Tim Bresnan, meanwhile, failed to trouble the Black Caps batsmen, going at 7.3 runs for his 10 overs.
The continued inclusion of Dernbach, however, remains controversial considering that he is not part of the ICC Champions Trophy squad whilst James Tredwell, a member of that squad, is left in the pavilion.
Where New Zealand excelled in their innings was in their running between the wickets; dot balls were turned into ones and ones into twos. Williamson typified this: of his 55, he hit only three boundaries.
England, requiring 7.2 runs an over, needed to apply such a strategy and were looking to make amends for their under-par batting display at Lord’s on Friday. Captain Alastair Cook led from the off and looked in good touch but was bowled by Kyle Mills, scoring 34 from 31 balls.
And then the pressure of the run-chase became too much. Ian Bell, 25 off 32 balls, got out after being caught hitting a looping shot to mid-off. Joe Root, 28 off 27 balls, was caught at mid-on by Doug Bracewell off a Nathan McCullum delivery.
The middle order of Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, who are expected to play a big part in this England one-day setup in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, toiled: the former scored 21 and the latter made just two runs. The pair will have to seriously up their game when it comes to the Champions Trophy—especially Morgan who is yet to fully acclimatise to English conditions having spent seven weeks in the IPL.
Trott was a rare positive, though, from a chastening defeat. He hit an unbeaten 109 off 104 balls, although he could have been stumped by Luke Ronchi in the 18th over when he was on 14. His century will lay to rest some of the recent criticism about his slow scoring, having now surpassed 2,500 ODI runs in 59 matches with a strike rate of 76.
England’s one-day coach, Ashley Giles, and skipper Cook have much to ponder after this disheartening loss. There is one more game to go in this series and the pair may consider giving the likes of Tredwell and Jonny Bairstow an opportunity before England begin their Champions Trophy campaign against, of all teams, Australia on June 8.