NZ ease past England

Still hurting after their Commonwealth Bank Series elimination at the hands of England last month, the New Zealanders managed to go some way to erasing the painful memories from the ‘Gabba with a comfortable win at St Lucia today in their first match of the 2007 World Cup. With New Zealand seeking revenge and England out to prove that their remarkable finish to the Commonwealth Bank Series was far from a one-off, the two teams were playing for more than just the points that go to the winning team. In the end it was New Zealand who played the better, easing past England’s 209-7 with six wickets and almost ten overs to spare.

As expected it was a good toss to win, Stephen Fleming surprising no one by choosing to bowl. The helpful conditions and good bowling by the New Zealanders in the first ten overs saw two early wickets fall, Ed Joyce caught behind off James Franklin to the second ball of the match and Ian Bell following the same way to Jacob Oram twenty minutes later. When Michael Vaughan was bowled by Franklin for 26 England were in a bit of trouble at 52-3. Just as unsurprisingly as the toss though was that the return of Kevin Pietersen from injury bolstered the batting lineup. Although cautious by his standards, Pietersen batted well in top-scoring with 60 from 92 balls, sharing in a crucial 81-run partnership with Commonwealth Bank Series hero Paul Collingwood.

When the two got the score through to 133-3 in the 35th over, a good total in excess of 250 looked highly possible. But then the match-turning moment came. Collingwood was caught behind off Scott Styris for 31, and as is so often the case his partner soon followed, Pietersen caught by Franklin off Bond in the next over. But it hadn’t finished there. Andrew Flintoff, probably second only to Pietersen in terms of English one-day international batsmen, fell first ball to Bond by way of a catch by Styris. When Jamie Dalrymple followed for 3 the score had plummeted from 133-3 to 138-7. Despite a good late partnership between Paul Nixon and Liam Plunkett, the damage had been done and a challenging score was all but impossible.

Nixon played well for his 42 not out from just 41 balls, an innings that along with Plunkett’s supporting 29 saw England at least get to the psychological target of 200, finishing on 209-7 at the end of the 50 overs. The best of the bowlers were Shane Bond, who finished with the astonishing figures for a fast bowler of 2-19 from ten overs, and Scott Styris who took 2-25 from seven.

Although 209-7 didn’t really look like a defendable total, that changed completely early in New Zealand’s chase. The Kiwis collapsed to 19-3 and then 72-4 as Lou Vincent and Ross Taylor both fell for 0, Fleming for 7 and Craig McMillan for what was a promising 27. But like in England’s chase, the fourth wicket was the turning point. This time, in the other direction. Styris and Oram came together and set about taking the match away from England.

Both Styris and Oram played slightly uncharacteristic innings, favouring singles and twos rather than boundaries, something of a disappointment to the spectators particularly in Oram’s case after his explosive performances in Australia. The chase was well and truly under control though as the partnership continued to grow, reaching fifty and then a hundred, finishing unbeaten on 138 when the winning runs were scored. Styris finished on an excellent 87 and Oram 63.

Although Collingwood and Pietersen batted well together, one of the things that cost England was the lack of a really big partnership in the middle order. Other factors include the fact that they conceded no fewer than 26 extras – including eleven wides – which is twice the number their opponents conceded, and a sloppy fielding effort that included misfields and overthrows. The main reason for England’s defeat however was the fact that today New Zealand were simply the better team, and despite the substantial number of extras it is hard to say that New Zealand would not have won anyway.

Positives for England include the form of Kevin Pietersen and the fact that James Anderson bowled brilliantly despite seeming likely to miss the match through injury, taking 2-39 from eight overs. New Zealand have the fact that they won as a positive, and also the rediscovery of form by Scott Styris. Jacob Oram proved he is no one-dimensional slogger, and the pace bowlers produced a very convincing display. What will worry them though was the fact that they were 3-2 and 17-3. That top order needs to find form against Kenya and Canada.

England 209-7
Kevin Pietersen 60, Paul Nixon 42 no
Shane Bond 2-19, Scott Styris 2-25

New Zealand 210-4
Scott Styris 87 no, Jacob Oram 63 no
James Anderson 2-39, Monty Panesar 1-47

New Zealand won by six wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Scott Styris – 2-25 and 87 no (113).

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