England kept their cool to win a nail-biting third one-day international by four runs against New Zealand.
In variable conditions Eoin Morgan’s men battled hard to set 235 as the target for victory, and when their hosts fell to 103-6 in the 25th over they must have been confident of success.
However, a typically-adroit Kane Williamson (112*) century took the match to the final over, yet the New Zealand captain could only muster ten of the 15 runs required for victory, meaning his opponents now move to the penultimate match with a chance of sealing the series.
England show ability to change
On a temperamental Wellington pitch and having lost the toss and been asked to bat, Eoin Morgan’s men showed due care and attention to belie the aggressive style-of-play they have become accustomed with and adapt to their surroundings.
Recognising that runs would be hard to come by at the Westpac Stadium, the travelling top-four batsmen ensured they would not fall foul of their boundary-or-nothing mentality which has seen them caught out in the past, as they all scored at a strike-rate less than a run-a-ball.
Jason Roy (15 off 26), Jonny Bairstow (19 off 39) and Joe Root (20 off 22) all displayed innings’ archetypal of their predecessors in English white-ball cricket: ones of which, at the time, caused an outcry amongst the nation for a change of attitude - however here was the perfect method of attack.
Captain Morgan (48 off 71) and Ben Stokes (39 off 73) added to a solid start as they accumulated steadily in a fourth-wicket partnership of 71, taking the scoreboard to 139 in the process.
The aforementioned duo’s dismissals - bowled by Tim Southee (1-48) and caught by Colin Munro off the impressive Ish Sodhi (3-53) respectively - then allowed their lower-order colleagues to increase the scoring rate
Jos Buttler (29) and Moeen Ali (23) scored at strike-rates of 126 and 121 respectively, whilst Chris Woakes (16) and Adil Rashid (11) also played their part in posting a testing score.
Williamson proves his class - again
The loss of opener Martin Guptill for 12 after 2.1 overs allowed Williamson to enter the fold, and alongside the big-hitting Munro the pair looked to take the game to the England attack.
Despite a nervy start Munro soon began to accelerate, crashing seven fours in his knock of 49 as he took advantage of the lack of movement in the pitch - something in complete contrast to the opening 50 overs.
Yet, he was dismissed thanks to a stunning Stokes catch at short cover off the bowling of Rashid (2-34), and from there the leg-spinner performed superbly in tandem with fellow spinner Moeen (3-36) to suffocate the home batsmen and wipe out the middle-order, prompting a fall of three wickets for one run in eight balls.
Mark Chapman (8) was the first to fall, chipping Moeen to point, before Tom Latham fell lbw to the very next ball and Henry Nicholls (0) then was hit in-front by Rashid in the following over. When Colin de Grandhomme hit Moeen straight to long-on, the hosts were fully in the midst of a collapse.
Despite all falling around him Williamson was typically assiduous, nudging and nurdling as he so frequently does to increase his score deceptively quickly.
Mitchell Santner initially steadied the ship before then combining well with his leader, however when he was run-out backing up off the fingers of Woakes for 41, the required 36 from 28 deliveries - with only three wickets left in the pavillion - looked a tough ask.
Having brought up his eleventh ODI century off the first ball of the penultimate over with a four off Tom Curran (0-49), the Surrey right-armer showed good composure to respond well and give away only three more singles from his over.
With the equation reading 13 from four balls for victory, there was a sense of a possible shift in momentum when Williamson heaved Woakes over the rope from the next delivery.
Alas, the Warwickshire all-rounder responded with great assurance to concede only two more runs from his over, and put his country into pole position as the two teams move to Dunedin.