Cricket: England batsmen get job done

England batsman Joe Root plays a reverse scoop shot against New Zealand during the second one-day international in Napier last night. Photo by Reuters.
England batsman Joe Root plays a reverse scoop shot against New Zealand during the second one-day international in Napier last night. Photo by Reuters.
New Zealand squandered first dibs on the best batting block in the country yesterday; England was not about to follow suit and so the one-day international series goes to a decider at Eden Park on Saturday.

Chasing an insufficient 269, England got the job done for the loss of two wickets, with 14 balls to spare.

Once England's openers Alastair Cook (78) and Ian Bell got into their work, followed by half-centuries from Jonathan Trott (65 not out) and the mightily impressive Joe Root (79 not out), the touring side was always on track to draw level in the series.

However, the most significant event of the day, to home eyes anyway, happened in the first half of the match.

It has been a while since a New Zealand partnership has been so loaded with symbolism as that which underpinned their innings.

Captain Brendon McCullum and the man he replaced, Ross Taylor, shared a rollicking 100-run stand in just 53 balls for the fifth wicket.

McCullum's 74 from 36 deliveries did the bulk of the damage, but Taylor stayed on to complete an emotional return to form with his seventh ODI ton. Their good work was badly let down as the last six wickets fell for 26 runs, in 25 balls.

Considering all the assumptions that things cannot possibly be good between Taylor and McCullum after the shambolic handling of the captaincy change - a point both have repeatedly denied - their rapport was under some scrutiny.

They pushed the singles hard, chivvied ones into twos, encouraged each other and, once he had his eye in, McCullum simply took off.

He clobbered four sixes to go with nine fours. His most remarkable shot, a six over long on off spin bowler Graeme Swann, was completed as he slipped over.

Going into the final 10 overs, New Zealand was 166 for four. The next three overs produced 58 as McCullum became a blur of hitting.

He was comfortably on course to eclipse New Zealand's fastest ODI 100 - 67 balls by Craig McMillan against Australia in Hamilton in 2007 - when he holed out to long on, departing to a standing ovation.

Taylor hurried across to give him a personal ''`well done, mate'' on his way off.

It continued a run of rattling form for McCullum, who has made 253 runs off 160 balls in five limited-overs innings against England in the last 12 days.

By contrast, Taylor has been slow to get his international career going again following his break after losing the leadership.

Yesterday, Taylor took 10 balls to get off the mark, steadily worked himself into some touch but, having got to 50 in 81 balls slammed Stuart Broad into the crowd at mid wicket.

The second 50 took 35 balls, followed by a raising of the arms and salute to a rapturous crowd.

He was out moments later - 117 balls, nine fours and that six, over 181 minutes - after an innings full of importance, not only personally but with the first test in Dunedin in mind.

England's new ball men, Jimmy Anderson and Steve Finn, were bang on the job early on.

Veteran seamer Anderson, who on Sunday eclipsed the record of Ian Botham to become the highest wicket-taker for England, was rewarded with five wickets.