England snatch tie in edge-of-the-seat thriller

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 14:13 [IST]
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Napier: England snatched an unlikely draw against New Zealand after earlier staring down the barrel of defeat in a thrilling -- and historic -- fourth one-day cricket international here Wednesday.

After being sent into bat England made 340 for six, and when it looked as if New Zealand had paced themselves to pull off a high-scoring victory, bolstered by a century by Jamie How, they were denied victory with the final delivery.

The hero for the tourists was Luke Wright, called on to bowl his first over of the game and the last of the match when all other options were gone and New Zealand requiring just seven to win.

With New Zealand needing two to win off the last ball, Wright pitched up to Daniel Vettori and restricted him to a single.

On a day tailor-made for batters, the 340 by each side was the highest-scoring tie in the history of one-day cricket internationals and was also the highest ODI score overseas by an England side.

In the process they ensured the series stays alive going into the fifth and final match in Christchurch on Saturday.

England captain Paul Collingwood said he never felt overly confident with 340.

"We knew it was a good total but at the same time we knew how good the pitch was and pretty much up until six overs to go we were dead and buried.

He said he decided to use Wright at the end when he saw New Zealand start to falter six overs from the end.

"I wanted to get it down to the last over and back Wrighty because I knew how good he was with yorkers and hopefully nail them and be the man for us on the day -- and what a great over it was."

Disappointed New Zealand captain Vettori meanwhile admitted his team "blew it."

"It was a perfect chase heading into the last six overs and we just blew it. We should have won that game extremely comfortably," he said.

It was a match which started with an audacious gamble by Vettori, who won the toss and spurned the chance to bat on a generous wicket on the grounds that New Zealand play better when they are chasing a target.

When they set out after their enormous target of 341 to win, the signs were there that Vettori's hunch was right, as Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum raced to 70 off the first 10 overs.

Ryder was first to fall when he skied Stuart Broad and was well caught by James Anderson, who had the distraction of avoiding Owais Shah in the race for the ball.

How joined McCullum and they put on 91 for the second wicket before McCullum went for 58.

With Ross Taylor for support, How kept advancing on the target and when Taylor was out for 48, New Zealand looked comfortable, needing 87 off the final 12 overs.

But Scott Styris came and went for a quick 20 while Peter Fulton (duck) and Jacob Oram (six) did not stay long, leaving New Zealand on 315 for five with four overs to go.

Anderson boosted England's cause when he conceded just two runs off the 47th over, and New Zealand struggled through to the last six balls when Wright conceded one, two, one and one before How was out and then Vettori could only manage a single off the last ball.

England had a lucky escape at the start of their innings when McCullum spilled a regulation chance, which allowed Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard to carry on for an impressive opening stand of 158.

The breakthrough came when Vettori tossed the ball to part-time bowler Jesse Ryder, who had the big-hitting Mustard caught at long-on by Oram with his fifth ball, and then bowled Cook, who crossed as Oram took the catch.

Kevin Pietersen prevented the hat-trick when Ryder started his second over, and raced to 50 off 47 balls. Ian Bell went for 43 and Collingwood was unbeaten on 54 from 30 deliveries when the innings ended.


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