Stokes stars in England’s domineering win


England 225 for 4 (Stokes 63*, Morgan 62, Boult 2-46) beat New Zealand 223 (Santner 63*, Guptill 50, Moeen 2-33, Stokes 2-42) by six wickets

Mount Maunganui :-Ben Stokes produced a starring all-round performance in his second match back in the England fold to help level the ODI series. He helped seal a reasonably straightforward chase of 224 with a crisp 63 off 74 balls to follow two sharp run-outs, as part of an outstanding fielding display, and a brace of wickets.

Stokes – who could have been run out on nought when Colin de Grandhomme side-footed past the stumps in his follow-through – and captain Eoin Morgan added 88 in 15 overs to break the back of the chase in Mount Maunganui’s first day-night ODI. Stokes, playing increasingly fluently, reached his fifty from 54 balls and gave a muted raise of the bat around the ground, before finishing the task alongside Jos Buttler, who clubbed 36 off 20 balls. They won with more than more than 12 overs to spare.

This was a victory set up in the field, by the fielding. Four run outs, equalling England’s most in an innings, and three fine catches keeping the pressure on New Zealand throughout. After defeat in Hamilton, both Morgan and Buttler spoke of needing to sharpen up in the field – this was a stirring response. David Willey set the tone with an over-the-shoulder catch, Jason Roy took two excellent grabs while four out of five run-out chances were taken. Only a ninth-wicket stand of 69 between Mitchell Santner, who made his maiden ODI fifty, and Lockie Ferguson nursed New Zealand over 200.

England’s chase did not get off to an ideal start. Roy picked out square leg pulling at Trent Boult, Joe Root fell to the most spectacular catch of the match – de Grandhomme low to his right at short midwicket – and Jonny Bairstow lazily ramped to third.

Yet while de Grandhomme’s grab had taken the catching to new heights, two tough chances which escaped New Zealand were costly. Morgan began in ultra-aggressive mode and after three fours and two sixes in the space of 16 balls, on 28, top-edged a pull towards wicketkeeper Tom Latham who couldn’t quite grab the chance, followed on 40 when he clipped what would have been another belting catch to Henry Nicholls at short midwicket.

After his early alarm, as Stokes called Morgan through when the ball bobbled by his feet and was left sprawling in the dirt as he dropped his bat diving for the crease, he played himself in then started to unfurl some trademark shots, hammered pulls through midwicket and a crunching straight drive for six off Boult.

New Zealand were without their captain, Kane Williamson, due to a hamstring injury and after being put in, their innings followed a similar start to the Hamilton chase three days ago when Colin Munro edged Chris Woakes’ third delivery, attempting another expansive drive before he’d got his eye in. It meant an early walk to the middle for Mark Chapman – in his first ODI for New Zealand having played two for Hong Kong in 2015 – and it was a brief stay when he top-edged Woakes into the leg side where Willey took a well-judged running from inside the circle.

Ross Taylor, who later did not field due to a quad injury, was required to rebuild the innings again and started to repair some of the early damage alongside Martin Guptill, although it was slow going. The first 10 overs brought 34 runs and the opening spells of Woakes and Willey were backed up by Rashid who went for just four in his first three overs.

The partial recovery was halted by an outstanding piece of work from Willey at backward point as he intercepted Taylor’s cut shot, collected the ball and threw to Buttler, who gathered cleanly low by the stumps to find Taylor well short. Guptill’s fifty came off a sedate 84 balls, his third slowest in ODIs, but he fell three deliveries later when Roy held the first of his excellent catches, a skimming low take at deep midwicket as Guptill tried to put Moeen onto the grass banks.

Roy wasn’t finished there, diving full-length to his right at backward to pluck Nicholls’ square cut out of the air in the next over. New Zealand were five down and still short of three figures.

Moeen, who found nice drift on a stiff breeze, claimed his second when Latham couldn’t keep a cut shot down and found short third man. Moeen and Adil Rashid combined to bowl their 20 overs for just 65 runs, Rashid’s 0 for 32 his joint-most economical 10-over spell in ODIs.

Just as de Grandhomme was building a base for a potential late-overs charge, he chanced a second run to Bairstow’s arm in the deep and lost the race. Even when England fumbled, they recovered as Santner sold Southee short after Stokes initially didn’t gather the ball cleanly at midwicket. England blotted their fielding copybook when Roy couldn’t gather the ball at midwicket – a decent throw would have found Ferguson short.

England would have expected to wrap up the innings well within the overs, but Ferguson brought up the fifty stand with a pulled six and Santner raised his half-century with another as Tom Curran went for 19 in the 48th over. Fittingly, the innings was rounded off by Stokes’ strong throw from the deep finding Boult inches short. Briefly, at three down, it looked like there might be a game on, but Morgan and Stokes quickly doused that prospect. It’s all to play for in this series.

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