New Zealand are a victory away from equalling their best streak in ODIs of 10 wins on the bounce, and number nine of the current sequence was their most satisfying yet as they overcame a formidable England team in a contest that twisted and turned through 100 overs.
West Indies barely offered a fight in the first ODI series of New Zealand’s season and though Pakistan occasionally challenged them, it only really came after the series had been decided. At Seddon Park on Sunday, New Zealand grabbed the early initiative inflicting England’s first defeat in a live bilateral ODI since the India series last January.
The sight of Ross Taylor scoring a masterful hundred should come as no surprise – it was his 18th in ODIs, although among his better ones – but around him New Zealand found fresh matchwinners. Tom Latham, who had endured a barren run of ODI form at home since his century against Bangladesh in late 2016, counterpunched when England were on top and most thrillingly Mitchell Santner sealed victory with a late dart. To win without contributions from Martin Guptill or Kane Williamson was a big tick for the home side.
“The partnership between Ross and Tom certainly set it up and was deserved of a good finish,” the coach, Mike Hesson, said. “We lost our way a little but the way Santner and even Tim [Southee] came out and were composed at the end was good for us
“Under pressure, a lot of times [the middle order] have had to come in and play cameos, be quite selfless. Sunday was quite different, they had to play a substantial innings and the way Tom and Ross set the side up was exceptional
“That’s why we play six frontline batsmen, you can’t always rely on your top order to set the platform even though they’ve done it for the majority of the summer. It was nice for the middle order to dominate.”
For Latham it was just his second fifty-plus score in 32 ODI innings at home – and nine of his previous 13 knocks in New Zealand had been single-figures – while Santner’s batting has faded, or at least stalled, as his spin bowling had improved.
“Tom’s been in good touch the last week or so,” Hesson said. “He got in really good positions yesterday which shows that he’s put the work. We know he’s a quality player. He’s taken the keeping on as well so we’ve asked quite a lot of him. He made a great start in India [last October], struggled a little bit at home and he’s been reminded of that a few times but we know he’s a good player. The more experience he gets in the role the better he’ll get.
“Mitch has been doing that in the nets for us for a long time, we know what a good striker he is. He played nicely against these guys at Trent Bridge a while ago and showed his power, so it’s always nice for someone to get us over the line. He’s put a heck of a lot of work into his batting in recent times and nice to see it come off.”
The chance of victory was restored by the Taylor-Latham alliance of 178 and capped off by Santner, but in a game of so many subplots New Zealand’s performance with the ball should not be forgotten. Tim Southee and Trent Boult excelled at both ends of the innings – the first 10 overs brought 41 runs, the last 67 – while someone snagged a breakthrough each time England threatened to get away. Hesson, who was a touch more critical of the bowling performance in the middle 30 overs, singled out Colin Munro‘s knuckle ball to deceive Joe Root as a key moment.
“The ability to keep taking wickets throughout the innings was critical, even though they can bat to 11 you’ve still got to start,” Hesson said. “If we can keep bringing out new guys, you earn yourselves some dots, a reprieve really. The key to any one-day game is to make sure you can still have an attacking option at one end.
“We kept chipping away, we didn’t really go bang, bang but we just chipped away when they started to get away from us. I think the wicket of Joe Root was critical for us, to get them five down meant we got five overs of them trying to rebuild a little.”