Flintoff leads England to win

After waiting patiently for several months, the Barmy Army at last had something to celebrate after England recorded their first win of the Australian tour in Hobart today. With the weight of captaincy and Ashes anticipation off his shoulders, Andrew Flintoff has returned to the all-round heroics we have come to expect in guiding England to a much needed win over New Zealand. For New Zealand, the defeat continues what has been a dreadful summer and again highlighted the major lack of form in particularly their top-order batsmen.

The winners of seven of the last 10 clashes between the two teams, New Zealand came into the match as warm favourites and it seemed rightly so as Brendon McCullum hit the second ball of the match into the stands in taking twelve runs from the first over. From there though it all went downhill as he again failed to go on after a bright start in departing for 16, followed not long afterwards by his very much out of form captain Stephen Fleming for 12 and then Sunday’s top-scorer Ross Taylor for 1, all three wickets falling in an excellent spell from James Anderson.

Although they seemed on a number of occasions to be threatening to build a partnership, wickets kept falling and slowing the run rate. Nathan Astle looked good in reaching 45 before edging a ball onto the stumps from Paul Collingwood, who bowled brilliantly in taking 2-25 from 10 overs.

For the fourth time in a row New Zealand’s middle order collapsed, the wicket of Craig McMillan reducing the score to 146-7. But as has so often been the case in the past, the lower order avoided complete embarrassment in guiding the team past 200, largely thanks to James Franklin and Shane Bond who contributed 20 and 22 respectively. When Anderson removed Gillespie with the last ball of the innings he picked up his fourth wicket, giving him the well-deserved excellent figures of 4-42.

Chasing a score that always seemed about 30 short of a defendable total, England started well and always seemed to have the upper hand. New Zealand restricted the flow of runs in the first half of the innings with some tight bowling ensuring that just 97 runs were scored in the first 30 overs, but England managed to keep wickets in hand and build a platform from which they could boost the run rate at a later stage.

Although New Zealand fought well, with a superb all-round performance in the field by Jeetan Patel who picked up two vital wickets and produced a direct hit to run out Ed Joyce, England managed to produce the partnerships New Zealand lacked in their innings, and a wonderful innings of 72 not out from 75 balls by Flintoff guided his team through to victory in what turned out to be a surprisingly tight finish in the 50th over as New Zealand refused to give up as the match slipped further and further from their grip.

The win comes as a much-needed confidence boost for England, for whom almost everything that can have gone wrong on this tour has done so. New Zealand meanwhile, supposedly ranked substantially higher than their opponents in ODIs, have a lot to work on if they are to do ensure the Australia – New Zealand final most were predicting before the tournament began and to turn around a season that New Zealand supporters wish they could start all over again.

New Zealand 205-9
Nathan Astle 45, Peter Fulton 27
James Anderson 4-42, Andrew Flintoff 2-37

England 206-7
Andrew Flintoff 72 no, Ian Bell 45
Jeetan Patel 2-34, James Franklin 2-34

England won by 3 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Andrew Flintoff – 3-34 and 72 no (75)

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