It is easy to disparage the worth of ODI cricket these
Opinions range between it being a (still relatively young)
dinosaur of international cricket that should be killed off,
to a form of the game which, somehow, doesn't really matter.
No room for 50-over cricket what with the primacy of the test
game to be protected and the brash T20 teenager sprouting
wings all over the globe, right?
ODI cricket still has a plotline, from which teams' fortunes
can ebb and flow over the course of a three and a half hours
Lose three quick wickets in T20 and generally you're toast.
Not necessarily so in the 50-over version.
Brendon McCullum will appreciate that as he eyes the chance
of a second straight ODI series victory over top-class
opposition at Eden Park tonight.
New Zealand made light of what was expected to be a
formidable South African ODI side last month, winning that
series 2-1 - and a ball away from an unthought-of clean sweep
- and can give themselves another dose of feel-good pills if
they do the same against England in the ANZ international
"It is a clutch game. We had a great series in South Africa
and these are the sorts of occasions where you hope you turn
up, play your best game and seize those moments," McCullum
There's been little between these teams, as they've gone
win-about through the first five limited-overs
internationals. It's New Zealand's turn tonight, for what
The issues for the hosts in Napier were early in both
innings. New Zealand's top three batsmen had a struggle
against England's classy new ball pair Jimmy Anderson and
Steven Finn; by contrast, three hours later it was all plain
sailing for Alastair Cook and Ian Bell.
Put your shirt on the winning captain at the toss choosing to
chase a target tonight.
Twenty-three sixes were struck in England's 40-run T20
victory a fortnight ago, 15 by the winners.
"They blew us out of the water," McCullum said.
Both captains are likely to figure that if the target is
large, provided early wickets aren't lost, they won't be out
of the contest when the straight boundaries are a wedge away.
Therefore being smart with bowling lines and lengths, and
varying pace, will be paramount.
"You get the feeling it's a chasing ground," McCullum said.
One less fielder beyond the inner circle won't help the
skipper defending tonight either, more scoring areas being
opened up by that trimming from five to four the number of
fielders available for boundary riding duty.
There may be similar carnage today, but England's batting
coach, former international lefthander Graham Thorpe,
cautioned against great expectations of a coconut shy from
the middle into the crowd.
"I've tried to stress that while some of the grounds are
quite short, it was a very good cricket pitch and we're
expecting another competitive game," he said.
"A par score? I've no idea. If you look back it's not as high
as you'd think it could be. But you are capable of scoring
over 300 if you set the game up well for yourself."
There was a sense in Napier that England might have been
finding their range. However they have experienced the heat
of McCullum's bat more than once so far.
As one English writer put it, there will be a focus on
avoiding being "McCullumed" again today.
England haven't won an ODI series in New Zealand since 1992.
They will be warm favourites going into the test series, so
New Zealand will appreciate the value of a win tonight.
(from) Brendon McCullum (c), BJ Watling, Hamish Rutherford,
Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, James Franklin,
Colin Munro, Nathan McCullum, Andrew Ellis, Kyle Mills, Tim
Southee, Trent Boult.
(from) Alastair Cook (c), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root,
Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Graeme Swann,
Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, Jimmy Anderson,
James Tredwell, Samit Patel, James Harris.
- David Leggat of the NZ Herald