Manchester: Ian Bell responded to the challenge of opening with an unbeaten 60 as England thrashed New Zealand by nine wickets in the lone Twenty20 international at Old Trafford here Friday.
Bell, normally a middle-order batsman and often accused of not making runs when they are needed, produced a chanceless innings.
Together with Kevin Pietersen, dropped on nought by New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, he saw England to their modest target of 124 with 15 balls to spare.
Pietersen finished on 42 not out, at just over a run-a-ball and shared an unbroken stand of 79 with Bell in 12 overs.
This was England's third straight Twenty20 against the Black Caps after two wins in New Zealand in February.
England have struggled for a reliable opening batsman in limited overs cricket since the international retirement of Marcus Trescothick.
But Luke Wright and Bell, England's 10th different first-wicket pair in 14 limited overs matches, got the run-chase off to a rapid start with a stand of 48 which left the hosts needing under a run-a-ball for victory.
Wright, not long after striking Michael Mason down the ground for four, holed out to the first change for 24.
Pietersen had a lucky break when, on nought, he saw Vettori drop a high, one-handed, caught and bowled chance in the left-arm spinner's first over off a flicked drive.
Bell though did attack Vettori successfully by making room outside leg-stump before stylishly lofting the slow bowler for four over extra cover and then drove Mason straight back over his head for another boundary.
And the 26-year-old Warwickshire batsman demonstrated excellent footwork to go down the pitch and drive Vettori for a textbook straight six.
Bell's single off Mark Gillespie took him through to a 39-ball fifty with one six and seven fours before a boundary off Scott Styris ended the match.
New Zealand's total of 123 for nine was their lowest in 15 Twenty20 matches after they'd lost the toss on a lively Old Trafford pitch.
Fast bowler Stuart Broad led England's attack with two wickets for 17 runs and off-spinner Graeme Swann two for 21.
Several batsmen got a start but none made more than Ross Taylor's 25.
England didn't have to wait long for a wicket.
James Anderson, on his Lancashire home ground, struck with his first ball when Jamie How was well caught by Owais Shah at first slip.
Taylor, going for his shots, launched medium-pacer Wright for six.
However, England captain and medium-pacer Paul Collingwood - with his fourth ball - bowled Taylor between bat and pad.
Wright, punished by Brendon McCullium for bowling short, made amends by yorking the dangerman for 24 to leave New Zealand 67 for four - a position from which they never really recovered
England, who beat New Zealand 2-0 in a Test series this month, begin a five-match one-day international series against the World Cup semi-finalists at the Riverside on Sunday.
New Zealand 123/9 in 20 (Ross Taylor 25, McCullum 24, David Flynn 23; Stuart Broad 2/17, Swann 2/21, Anderson 2/25) lost to England 127/1 in 17.3 overs (Ian Bell 60 n o, Pietersen 42 n o, Luke Wright 24; Michael Mason 1/18).