New Zealand v England: Ben Stokes hits half-century in England win



Ben Stokes put in a man-of-the-match performance in his second game back in England colours, leading them to a six-wicket victory over New Zealand to square the ODI series. Figures of two for 42 saw the all-rounder play a part in bowling out the hosts for 223, before a well-judged 63 not out helped win the game with 73 balls to spare.

This was Stokes’ first half-century (11th in all ODIs) since that ODI in Bristol. One made with an appreciation that no risks needed to be taken on a pitch that, for all New Zealand’s woes when put in by Eoin Morgan, allowed the ball to come onto the bat nicely. The sole moment of aggression from Stokes was one of his eight boundaries – a solitary six when charging at Trent Boult and sending him back over his head.

Stokes was led for some part by Morgan, who rattled off a 35th ODI half century. The pair put on 88 for the fourth wicket, removing what jitters there might have been from 86 for three, after Jonny Bairstow had given away a handy start of 37 when ramping fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, drafted in for leg spinner Ish Sodhi, to third man.

The building blocks of England’s victory came in the field. They were wasteful during the first ODI and with improvement called for, training sessions took on greater intensity. So much so that the team’s media manager Danny Reuben, who offers assistance with the keeping gloves when required, was taken to hospital on Tuesday with a cracked right eye-socket after wearing a ball when trying to gather a throw.

The difference here was stark: four run outs (equal highest for England in an ODI) accompanying six catches – four that deserve high praise. The Blackcaps, while able to contribute quality moments of their own – Colin de Grandhomme’s catch to remove Joe Root (one-handed, diving sharply to his right at midwicket) was the best of the match – were guilty of high profile misses.

Stokes should have been run out on nought, as he took charge when Morgan had dropped the ball at his feet but lost his bearings, calling through his captain as he charged to the danger end. However, De Grandhomme’s side-foot was well off target.

Morgan was given lives on 28 and 40, top-edging beyond the grasp of wicketkeeper Tom Latham and powering a pull through the hands of Henry Nicholls at midwicket. By the time he was eventually dismissed, plinking one to Colin Munro, just 50 more were needed with six wickets and 117 balls remaining.

New Zealand’s hopes of haring out of the blocks were hampered by excellent new ball bowling from Chris Woakes and David Willey. A powerplay of 34 runs brought two wickets, both falling to Woakes in his first eight balls. Munro edged behind before the ODI debutant and former Hong Kong international Mark Chapman skewed high into the leg side: Willey running out of the 30-yard-circle to take catch over his shoulder to make it nine for two in the fourth over.

Willey then saw off the first ODI’s centurion Ross Taylor with an excellent stop and throw from a prone position at backward point. Buttler removed the bails before Taylor, thinking he’d beaten his man, was able to regain his ground with a dive. Jason Roy duly followed, taking an smart catch at deep midwicket to get rid of Martin Guptill for 50 (his 34th ODI half-century). Roy bettered that effort with a screamer at backward point, at the expense of Nicholls, giving Stokes his first wicket.

De Grandehomme hit the first six of the innings before he, too, was undone in the open of the Bay Oval, run out by Bairstow in the deep. A third run out came after Tim Southee was coerced into running on Stokes’ misfield. Had Roy contributed the fourth, when Ferguson was short of the keeper’s end, this match might have been over sooner.

Ferguson was able to accompany Mitchell Santner, who cracked a maiden 50 in his 50th ODI. Fresh from his match-winning 45 not out in the first match in Hamilton, he was patient until the 48th over, which saw Tom Curran taken for 19 – Santner reaching his half-century with a six off his 45th delivery.

Ferguson’s dismissal, bringing the ninth wicket partnership to an end on 69, and the run out of Trent Boult – both by Stokes – had New Zealand a good hundred short of a competitive total.