Johnny Bairstow England's hero in thrilling rain-curtailed finish to New Zealand ODI series
If one asks you to name two ODI teams to be involved in the highest scoring ODI series of five or fewer games, one team sure wouldn’t have been England. Rightly so, their World Cup performance was so hapless that it made everyone draw the conclusion that England wouldn’t be moving forward with their approach.
But a series win at Durham against the World Cup finalists, who were well grooved to the pace of the ODI cricket, has summed up the superb turnaround in fortunes of the England team – showcasing fearlessness and aggressive intent, something that English cricket was lacking.
At Durham, with less than a month to go before taking on the snarling and the sledging Aussies in the Ashes series, Eoin Morgan won the toss in the all-important final of the ODI series – taking the easy decision to bowl first, given the cloudy weather and the rain threat that was hovering. Brendon McCullum started off the innings with a six and followed it up by dragging the next ball onto the stumps with an inside edge.
Steve Finn and Mark Wood got some early movement and made the ball swing due to the breezy and the overcast conditions but that did not hinder Kane Williamson playing his soft and deftly strokes at will. Martin Guptill and Williamson got together knitting a 94 run partnership before Williamson became another batsman to fall in the same fashion as McCullum, by dragging the ball onto the stumps.
At the 20 over mark when New Zealand were 102/2, it looked like yet another run-fest was on the cards. But Guptill perished to Adil Rashid without carrying on to make a hundred. And Santer’s promotion over Elliot didn’t do any good for New Zealand as he also followed in quick succession, bowled by Rashid.
However, the late onslaught of Ben Wheeler in the death overs ensured New Zealand crossed the 250-run mark. He took over Steve Finn for 4,6 and 6 in the final 3 balls of the innings ending New Zealand’s innings on 283, the first time ever in the series where the team batting first scored less than 300.
Bairstow’s brisk knock gives England thrilling series win
Heavy showers at the break meant that the game was shortened and England’s target was revised as per the Duckworth-Lewis method. A revised target of 192 in 26 overs was set.
The hosts lost Alex Hales in the 2nd over when Kane Williamson held on to a one-handed blinder. Then they lost Joe Root and Eoin Morgan in the fourth over, pushing them into trouble. By then, Santner already had outstanding figures of 3 wickets for 7 runs. Ben Strokes looked to counter attack to change the momentum of the innings but could only play a brief cameo when he decided to give charge in Ben Wheeler’s over, only to be caught by Brendon McCullum at mid-off.
At the start of the 9th over, Mathieson removed Jason Roy with the first ball he ever bowled in international cricket. Roy was trying to carve it over the backward point but couldn’t hit it over Martin Guptill. England were already tottering at 45-5 and had to do a humongous task if they were to win the match and the series.
In walked Jonathan Bairstow, the man of the hour, who was playing as cover for Jos Buttler, striking up an all-important partnership with Sam Billings. Bairstow and Billings put on a quick 80 run partnership bringing England back into the game. The pendulum swung in New Zealand’s favor very quickly when Matt Henry removed Sam Billings in the 18th over and Ben Wheeler removed David Willey in the 21st over. It was down to Bairstow to score the major chunk of runs keeping up with the required run rate to see his team through the finishing line.
And he did it with much precision and skill, getting at least a boundary of every over. Bairstow’s score was 50 runs off 45 balls when Willey got out in the 21st over with England requiring 49 to win from 30 balls. With Adil Rashid as only aid at the other end, Bairstow scored the next 30 runs off just 16 balls, finally being unvanquished on 83 off 60 balls – giving a thrilling end to the series in an apt manner.
New Zealnd: 283-9 (50 overs) || M.Guptill 67; B.Stokes 3/52
England: 192/7 (25 overs) || J.Bairstow 80*; M.Santner 3/31
Result: England won by 3 wickets (D/L Method)
Man of Match: Johnny Bairstow.