England have seemed the better side on the whole, and the hosts need a proper team performance to pull things back before it’s too late.
New Zealand v England
University Oval, Dunedin
Wednesday 7 March; 11:00 local time, 22:00 GMT
It went right down to the proverbial wire in the third one-day international of the five-match series between New Zealand and England, with Kane Williamson’s unbeaten century taking the home side to the doorstep of victory before England clung on to go 2-1 ahead.
That came after a Ross Taylor century and a Mitchell Santner blitz had given New Zealand a three-wicket victory in the first game before England bounced back with a stellar bowling effort and half-centuries from Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes in the second fixture, which they won by six wickets.
England have certainly looked the more complete of the two sides. The only two centuries in the series might have come from New Zealand blades, but Morgan, Stokes, Jos Buttler and Joe Root have all been among the runs, while all of Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Stokes have been picking up wickets.
Stokes has settled back into the side well after a long time out, and that’s certainly lifted England in a big way – not that they were doing badly without him, beating Australia 4-1 in their ODI series earlier in the year. The runs have come smoothly too, and England – Morgan in the main – have shown that they can change gear when needed and have alternatives when their all-out attack plan doesn’t work. That’s positive keeping the long-term view in mind.
For New Zealand, it’s been a matter of individuals coming through more than the team as a whole clicking. Mitchell Santner has actually been their standout batsman, scoring a match-winning 45*, then 63* and finally 41 in the three matches so far, all from No.8. Their middle order, meanwhile, has looked brittle at times, with Henry Nicholls going through a woeful patch, scoring 0, 1 and 0 in the series.
Taylor missed the last game after picking up a quad injury, but has been cleared for the fourth game, and might replace Nicholls or Mark Chapman in the XI.
The New Zealand bowling has looked fine, though, with Trent Boult and Ish Sodhi the frontmen of the attack. But they have been let down by the batsmen, which the home side must find a way to address if they want to keep the series alive going into the decider.
Mitchell Santner (New Zealand): It’s probably unfair to expect the No.8 batsman to bail the team out too often, but Santner has had to do it in all three matches in the series. He, and his team, will hope it doesn’t come down to him again, because that will mean the top order has done its job. If it does, though, Santner has shown that he is more than up to the task, to go with his left-arm spin bowling.
Eoin Morgan (England): England’s recent policy while batting, in the shorter formats, has been to go at it from the start and not let up. Conditions prevent that sort of plan from working each time, and that’s where their captain is so crucial. Morgan has held the innings together twice in two matches with responsible batting. That approach might be called upon again in Dunedin.
Pakistan were blown away by Boult when the last ODI was played in Dunedin, in January 2018. They scored just 74, but with New Zealand hitting 257 batting first, it did seem like there was enough in the pitch for batsmen to be happy. Unfortunately, there’s a fair bit of rain forecast in the lead-up to the match, and that could have a big effect on proceedings.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (wk), Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Craig Overton, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.