McCullum bludgeons England to give New Zealand series

Published: Saturday, February 23, 2008, 16:31 [IST]
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An explosive Brendon McCullum wrecked the best bowling England could offer as New Zealand overcame a mid-innings crisis to win the one-day cricket decider by 34 runs here Saturday.

The overwhelming win gave New Zealand the five-match series 3-1, with one game tied, and importantly gave them a psychological boost going into the three Tests next month.

With New Zealand set a target of 243 to win, McCullum's explosive start saw them reach 213 for six with 13 overs remaining when rain brought an early end to the game.

Under the Duckworth-Lewis system New Zealand only needed 179 in 37 overs.

Despite the series going down to the final game, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori described the winning margin as "emphatic".

"Three-one with a tie thrown in that we really should have won ... all in all I couldn't ask for too much more," he said.

"We played some great cricket through the series, there's some proud guys in the dressing room."

With McCullum caning the England bowling at will, New Zealand raced to 100 in just 11 overs before losing their first wicket when Jesse Ryder was run out by Kevin Pietersen for 24.

Their century stand was not without risks -- Ian Bell dropped Ryder on one in the second over and Phil Mustard put down McCullum on 33 in the seventh.

McCullum responded to his life by smacking Ryan Sidebottom for two successive sixes as part of an innings haul of six sixes and five fours.

Following the fall of Ryder, McCullum continued his charge for another five overs, reaching 77 off 43 balls before surrendering his wicket to Paul Collingwood.

When he departed, New Zealand were two for 118 and although the scoring rate then slowed, and three wickets fell at one stage for the addition of only one run, the result was never in serious doubt.

England had a whiff of turning the tide when James Anderson took the wicket of Scott Styris for 25 and one run later Ryan Sidebottom had debutant Daniel Flynn and veteran Jacob Oram in consecutive balls.

But the New Zealand batting had depth. Jamie How made 24, while Ross Taylor was unbeaten on 41 with Vettori on seven when the game was abruptly ended.

On a pitch which offered the batsmen plenty, England's 242 for seven was rather flattering.

Dimitri Mascarenhas belted 22 off the final over to complete a 65-run surge over the final five overs to lift the innings out of mediocrity and Collingwood believed 242 was defendable were it not for McCullum and Ryder.

"They came out and performed the way they can and again took the game away from us," he said.

"The bowlers obviously find it hard to bowl against them. They hit it both sides of the wicket and they hit it a long way as well."

Vettori had put England into bat after winning the toss on the grounds that his side performs best when chasing a total.

It was a tactic which nearly backfired in the fourth match in Napier on Wednesday, when New Zealand needed 341 to win and stumbled in the final overs for the game to end in a rare tie.

But 242 never looked an imposing target, and without Mascarenhas and Luke Wright, England would have struggled to reach 200.

Wright top scored for England with 47 off 40 balls, while ahead of him the top-order pace was pedestrian.

Kyle Mills, the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, finished with four for 36 including the wickets of Wright and Owais Shah (29) in three balls after the pair produced a 69-run stand for the sixth wicket.

Vettori took two for 28 with the wickets of Alastair Cook (42) and Collingwood (14), while Jeetan Patel snared the wicket of Kevin Pietersen for 39 for match figures of one for 33.

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