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Root's Rout Rampages Kiwi's

February 21st 2013 16:07
England marched to a business-like eight-wicket win in Napier, completing their second-highest successful run chase against New Zealand in the process, to square the series at 1-1 after an unruly burst from Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum had threatened Alastair Cook's masterplan. Cook and Jonathan Trott made solid half-centuries, while Joe Root twinkled with impudent brilliance in top-scoring with an unbeaten 79 but it was James Anderson's 5 for 34 that set up victory on an excellent batting surface.

Having asked his bowlers to keep New Zealand to a manageable total, Cook was rewarded with early wickets and a modest run rate, only for Taylor's seventh ODI hundred to provide a rallying standard and McCullum to launch a familiar riposte. The fifth-wicket partnership was outside England's parameters of acceptability but after McCullum holed out off Stuart Broad for 74 the last six wickets fell for 26 runs, as they regained control of the scenario.

Discussions about Taylor's form had begun to overshadow the positive of his return, so this was an important innings for the New Zealand No. 4, even if it came in defeat. In his four previous innings, he had made 45 runs but here he progressed to his first international half-century since scoring 142 and 74 in his last match as captain, the Colombo Test in November. His ousting may still smart on a personal level but the detente can only be good for McCullum, Taylor's replacement, who will head to Auckland seeking a victory that would give him back-to-back ODI series wins at the start of his tenure.

After a level-headed, recovery stand of 72 with Kane Williamson, Taylor began to add some impetus, slugging Broad over deep midwicket for the first six and then sweeping Graeme Swann hard in front of square. He was joined in the middle by McCullum five balls into the batting Powerplay, after Grant Elliott had top-edged Steven Finn to deep square leg, and the pair were soon exchanging fist bumps in the middle. Should they reach the level of the brotherly bum-tap anytime soon, then all will be considered well within New Zealand cricket.

McCullum's fifty came from 26 balls - and that included just a single from his first seven - as Swann, Chris Woakes and then Broad were each targeted in succession. Swann's final over disappeared for 17 and included a six so dismissive that McCullum managed to crash the ball over extra-cover even as he slipped and lost his footing; Woakes and Broad then went for 21 and 20 respectively. England had been criticised for bowling too short at McCullum in the series so far but he tore up their plans to go full, as Broad was twice thumped down the ground in searching for the yorker.

Finn was trotting in off a shorter run-up in an attempt to cure his knock-knee problem but showed no lack of pace and perhaps a touch more control - though he still managed to clip the stumps at the non-striker's end later in the innings. McCullum cracked the delivery for four and Cook received short shrift when asking Rod Tucker if it should not have been called dead-ball.

When the first bowling change came, Anderson had figures of 6-2-11-2. Finn had also conceded 11 from his six-over spell and New Zealand had to attempt to force the pace against Woakes, Broad and Swann. Thanks to McCullum and Taylor, they attained respectability but were bowled out with seven balls unused.

The combined aggression of McCullum and Taylor with the bat, putting on 100 in 52 balls, had brought New Zealand back into the match but they both put down straightforward chances off Root. The first, a skier to McCullum, came when Root, on 25, top-edged an attempted pull at Tim Southee towards short fine leg and although the wicketkeeper made his ground, he misjudged the trajectory and failed to get his gloves under the ball. The next delivery, Root ramped the ball for a flat four through the same part of the ground and the fuse had been lit: 12 balls later, he had reached his fifty, accelerating past senior team-mate Trott.

His innings blended grace and power, with hefty cuts and pulls offset by nimble flicks and cultured drives. Such was the quality, it's doubtful the man whose place in the side he currently occupies, Kevin Pietersen, could have finished more stylishly, as Root and Trott combined for a decisive 121-run stand to continue the trend of reverses that has seen the teams swap victories over five limited-overs contests on the tour so far. His third half-century also made Root the first player to start their ODI career with six successive scores of 30 or more.

Not only did he upstage the contributions of his own team-mates, in what was an improved all-round display, Root also overshadowed Taylor's first significant score since coming back into the New Zealand team.

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