Alastair Cook moaned as his mistimed pull off James Franklin squirted directly towards the man positioned at short midwicket,Nathan McCullum. It was the first ball of the eighth over,a third of the way into this rain-jacketed innings,and Cook’s batting looked to be heading nowhere. In 14 balls before dragging a back of a length ball outside his off-stump towards McCullum,he had scored exactly 14 runs. Now,Cook’s (and of course England’s) prospects in this 24-overs-a-side game wasn’t looking good.
But fate and this particular McCullum would give him another chance. Make that a lot many chances.
Grabbing at it a little too quickly,McCullum put it down. Had it stuck,he would have taken his second catch of the day,having already snapped up Jonathan Trott in the same position a few overs earlier. Had it stuck,the McCullum brothers would have caught the entire England top-order,with captain Brendon having taken a stunner at short extra cover to end Ian Bell’s stay at the crease. And had it stuck,with the crutch of writing a report retrospectively,it would have ended England’s hopes in this game.
But Cook survived. And then survived again,dropped by N McCullum on 37. And once again,spilled by N McCullum on 45. As one man wished that the Welsh soil of the Sophia Gardens would swallow him whole,the other quietly said thank you and not-so-quietly went on to resurrect England’s chances in this innings,the game and in the Champions Trophy by playing one of his more unorthodox innings in international cricket.
Not only did Cook stroke two sixes in the same ODI for the first time in his career,the guardian of the long format game attempted and connected what will now be known as a Cook-scoop (like a Dilscoop,but played by the gangly Cook) and scored a good portion of his 64 runs with Chinese cuts and innocuous leading edges.
Fourth time lucky
It was the butter fingers of McCullum that did catch him eventually in fourth attempt,off his own bowling. But the damage had been done. When Cook was dismissed in the 19th over,England had reached 141. It would hurt off-spinner McCullum to know that once Cook fell,the last seven England batsmen managed a sum total of 28 runs. From 141/3,England were bowled out for 169,with the New Zealand skipper’s brother taking as many as four catches — off Trott,Cook,Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad. But they didn’t matter. Only his three drops did.
New Zealand,who came into this match just needing a washout and a shared point to qualify for the semis,lost by 10 runs bowled out as well on the very last ball of the day. They had come into this match as favourites,with Martin Guptill having begun the England summer with two centuries against Cook’s men,personally handing them their first ODI series loss at home in four years. But when he was bowled in the fourth over of the chase by James Anderson for 10,even a smashing innings by young Kane Williamson (67 runs,54 balls,8 fours and a six into River Taff) wasn’t enough.
It was Anderson’s second wicket of the over,having crippled the NZ top-order by dismissing opener Luke Ronchi a couple of balls earlier. Following that,the only chance that New Zealand had of earning a point had come down to a bit of gamesmanship. Heres how.
As Anderson returned in his second spell to bowl the 20th over of the day,the visitors needed 63 runs from 30 balls. But with an imminent rain threat (do keep in mind that this match was delayed by nearly six hours),the batsman,debutant Corey Anderson called out the physios for some attention on his right calf. One Anderson waited,the other cringed during his prolonged treatment and the sparse crowd booed. Had it rained then,the events that unfolded on Sunday would not have constituted a full match. Duckworth Lewis,after all, comes into question only after 20 overs. Ten minutes after going down for almost no apparent reason,the Andersons faced off and four overs before it ended,it all but ended.
While England pulled off of a coup,one has to feel for New Zealand and especially their fast bowling pair of Kyle Mills and Mitchell McClenaghan. The former came into this game as joint-highest wicket-taker in the history of the tournament with 24 wickets. The latter,a left-arm seamer playing in his first international year,entered this match as the joint highest wicket taker in this edition,with eight wickets.
Both did exceedingly well. It’s just that while Mills and McClenaghan controlled the batsmen and their strokes with puppet strings,they had absolutely no say or control with regards to their fielders.