Kane Williamson played an outstanding, battling knock, getting to his 11th one-day international century and taking New Zealand to the doorstep of an unlikely win before Chris Woakes bowled an excellent last over to help England edge home by four runs in the third game of the five-match series in Wellington on Saturday 3 March.
Williamson hadn’t been in his best form in the lead up to the game and missed the second ODI because of a hamstring injury. But back in the saddle at the Westpac Stadium, he lifted a tottering New Zealand innings after the scoreboard read 103/6 to take them all the way to 230/8. He remained unbeaten on a 143-ball 112 with six fours and two sixes but his team fell one big hit short of England’s 234, giving the visiting side a 2-1 lead in the series.
During the chase, Colin Munro first and then Williamson did their bit early on but New Zealand struggled in the face of some incisive spin bowling from England.
Martin Guptill, the form batsman for New Zealand, was the first to fall in the third over, lobbing Woakes (2/40) to Tom Curran at mid-on, but Munro and Williamson then stitched together a stand of 68 runs.
While they batted, Munro certainly the aggressor, it looked like New Zealand were coasting. But 80/1 to 103/6 happened in next to no time. First, Ben Stokes pulled off a catch out of thin air, diving to his left at short cover, to send Munro back off Adil Rashid (2/34) for a 62-ball 49, including seven fours.
Williamson held firm, but Moeen Ali (3/36) joined the party to get rid of Mark Chapman and Tom Latham off consecutive balls to derail the chase. Rashid then sent Henry Nicholls back for a duck – following scores of zero and one in the first two games – and Ali returned to account for Colin de Grandhomme.
But from that point on, Williamson and Mitchell Santner, who has been in outstanding form, chipped away for upwards of 21 overs to keep England at bay. It was slow going, as was the norm on the day, but the two added 96 crucial runs to take New Zealand towards their goal. Williamson was a bit more circumspect, knowing that he had to stay till the end, while Santner focussed on the singles but also hit three fours before becoming the seventh man out, for a 54-ball 41, to leave New Zealand at 199/7 in the 46th over.
Tim Southee came and went but Williamson soldiered on, going past his century and bringing the equation down to 15 from the last over and then, after smashing a six over deep square-leg off the third ball, seven from three. But with Williamson aiming leg-side, Woakes played it smart with a low full-toss and then a yorker to seal the deal.
Earlier, the England innings struggled to get going too on what was a difficult pitch to score on, with the ball stopping on the batsmen and preventing the stroke players from letting loose. There were, however, no collapses of the sort witnessed in the second half of the match.
Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow started slowly but steadily to get to 25 before Trent Boult (2/47) sent Roy back for 15. Joe Root and Bairstow fell to de Grandhomme and Ish Sodhi (3/53) respectively, but then there was the crucial 71-run stand between Eoin Morgan and Stokes that lifted the innings. It wasn’t frenetic hitting of the sort England have built a reputation for. Instead, it was patient structuring of an innings.
Morgan and Stokes took just under 20 overs to score their runs, till Morgan lost his off-stump to Southee to leave for a 71-ball 48, with three fours and a six.
Stokes couldn’t really get going, but Jos Buttler, Ali, Woakes and Rashid all scored quickly to make up for the slowness of the middle-overs. Stokes fell for 39, scored over 73 balls with two fours, but Buttler hit 29 in 23, Ali 23 in 19, Woakes 16 in 15 and Rashid 11 in eight to move the total to a better position than looked likely at one stage. Indeed, considering the innings run rate of 4.68, the fact that 68 runs were scored in the last 10 overs was remarkable.
The fourth match of the series will be played at Dunedin’s University Oval on Wednesday 7 March.