This new-look England side are no longer prepared to die wondering in 50-over cricket. In the second one-day international against New Zealand at The Oval Eoin Morgan’s side produced a thrilling run chase, only to fall cruelly 13 runs short of a rain-adjusted target of 379 from 46 overs.
Faced with an imposing 399 to win after Ross Taylor’s unbeaten 119, the hosts came out blazing in the reply, with Morgan’s 88 from 47 balls – in which he struck six sixes off the spinners – taking his team to within 125 runs of victory with 14.4 overs remaining.
But at 8.20pm, after an eighth-wicket stand of 70 between Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett brought England to within 54 runs of their target with 37 deliveries remaining, a brief downpour saw play suspended for 45 minutes. At the restart the equation had changed to 34 from 13 balls. With England’s momentum lost, New Zealand held their nerve. The removal of Plunkett, caught in the deep off the spinner Nathan McCullum for 44, and Rashid, courtesy of a breathtaking relay catch on the boundary between Tim Southee and Trent Boult, led to England finishing on 365 for nine.
That they failed to overcome such a target should not detract from their reaction to the scenario in front of them, registering their highest second-innings total in a one-day international in the same week as they passed 400 for the first time. Two games into the new era the signs, with the bat at least, augur well.
Both teams – and Surrey’s head groundsman Lee Fortis – should be praised for a match that produced some astonishing hitting, with 27 sixes and 74 fours struck in what is the highest run aggregate for a one-day international played in England.
The series is now level with three to play but there is little time to catch one’s breath, with the next encounter for opponents seemingly intent on carving every ball to or over the rope scheduled for the Ageas Bowl on Sunday.
Taylor’s century was the stand-out contribution to the first innings, as he and Kane Williamson, with 93, powered the tourists to their position of dominance at halfway. Their total was 11 higher than the 387 for five England shipped against India in Rajkot in 2008, meaning that in two games this series has already registered England’s highest ever ODI total, their biggest winning margin and the highest score they have conceded.
Amid the chaos Chris Jordan also equalled Steve Harmison’s record of conceding 97 runs for his one wicket, missing out on history only because a side strain denied him a 10th over, with Ben Stokes the pick with two for 66 on an otherwise chastening day for England’s bowlers.
The attack lacked penetration – albeit on a belting Oval pitch with the traditional fast outfield – as each of New Zealand’s first four partnerships topped 50 runs, the best of them the third-wicket stand of 121 between Taylor and Williamson as they turned 114 for two into 235 for three by the 36th over and laid the platform for a late surge from Grant Elliott (32 from 15 balls) and Luke Ronchi (33 from 16).
It is hard to believe the team that performed so badly at the World Cup under head coach Peter Moores would not have let their heads drop in face of such a target. Not this group, who in the first two matches of this series appear to have awoken from a decades-old inclination to play constipated one-day cricket and are now prepared to take on opponents blow for blow.
The key word for England’s new era is intent and certainly Jason Roy and Alex Hales opened the reply at The Oval with the required positivity, creaming 65 from the first 10 overs and combining for 85 in total before the former reverse-swept Nathan McCullum to short third man.
Hales registered his maiden half-century from 43 balls, including three sixes and six fours – one of which flew off the back of his blade as he attempted to leave – but in the space of a single over from the left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner 100 for one became 100 for three, as he followed Joe Root in perishing in the deep playing the slog sweep.
England, as they showed in their record 408 for nine at Edgbaston on Tuesday, no longer react to a cluster of wickets with mere consolidation. Instead they continued the assault, Morgan taking up the challenge with a blistering array of shots to record a 28-ball half-century and fashion partnerships of 63 and 98 with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler respectively.
With 20 overs remaining England needed 158 with six wickets in hand – a regulation Twenty20 scenario. Buttler’s departure, caught behind off Boult for 41, was a setback but the double blow of losing Morgan, caught at deep point off Mitchell McClenaghan attempting what would have been a seventh six, and then Sam Billings in the space of six deliveries looked to have taken the wind out of England’s pursuit.
Plunkett and Rashid renewed hope, crashing eight fours and three sixes between them in 8.3 overs, only for the rain to destroy that momentum. Those hardy souls who stuck around and cheered as the groundstaff removed the covers were not to be rewarded, however, with New Zealand taking the spoils after the restart.
The juggling act between Southee and Boult to remove Rashid in the deep for 34 – in which the former flicked the ball back to his opening partner before crossing the rope – was one final clip for the highlights reel.