Another flat deck and an average of 329.50 runs per innings in the first three ODIs ensured that any pundit with a bit of sense could have guessed that the fourth ODI in this exhilarating series would be another run fest, but nobody could have predicted the glorious fashion in which England stole the game from New Zealand.
The ball didn’t swing early and Steve Finn was very economical, considerably restricting the tourists in both power plays. But five dropped catches and some very good batting from Guptill, Elliot, Santner and Williamson who, in scoring 90 became the fifth fastest player to reach 3,000 ODI runs, allowed the New Zealander’s to set what would usually be a mammoth total of 349. A total far from anything that England has ever chased before.
What followed was an onslaught like we’ve never seen from a nation of players that have been called names like the ‘Sherminator’ by the Australians and have played the game with their glass half empty for far too long.
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Alex Hales set the tone with a rapid 67 off 38 balls during which he took the 23-year-old Ben Wheeler apart and gave England the platform to pull off this chase. As much as Morgan and Root will take the praise for their centuries, Hales’s innings was just, if not more valuable, he gave both players the time to play themselves in. Time, which is too often a rarity when chasing a score so big.
When Roy departed for 38 and Morgan arrived at the crease England were 111 -2. Despite scoring at 8.5 runs per over there was still a formidable task ahead and the stage was set for the England captain to do something special.
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Morgan caressed his second ball, which was far from a half volley through the covers for four and only got better throughout his innings. The way he manipulates the ball to all parts of the ground is remarkable and proves a complete nightmare for any captain.
In the 25th, Brendon McCullum brought up the cover field and Morgan consecutively hit two Williamson balls from leg stump over point and then cover. Nervous 90s? Such a thing doesn’t exist for this man; he raced into the 90s and on 97 launched a length ball from Henry over midwicket for a monstrous six to bring up his hundred.
His 113 off 82 balls was a simply stunning innings, full of power, impeccable placement and a hell of a fight from an England captain who’s truly leading from the front. The skipper’s now scored 322 off 257 balls in this series.
Root at the other end played a typically graceful innings; he kept the ball on the ground but like Morgan placed the ball perfectly and once again showed maturity well above his years. He was the ideal partner for Morgan and together their partnership of 198 won England the game.
The win could well be England’s greatest ever ODI victory. Although they were without their best bowler Boult, this New Zealand side is a team that were not long ago runners up in the World Cup and England completely outshone them.
In the days of old the top order batsmen would have been in two minds between keeping wickets in hand and simply slogging from the hip. The cricketers that England are now producing are a different breed, players that have no fear and complete trust in their own attacking game, it’s a brand of cricket that’s fresh and exciting.
With a punchy little Irishman like Morgan as captain and a hell of a lot of talent there’s no reason why this team can’t break endless records.