Having won the first four matches of their tour to New Zealand, England were expected to dominate the ODI series much in the same way as they had done the 20/20 match-ups. However, New Zealand hadn't read the script and have since demolished England in the first two ODIs.
Fans would have been hoping that the abysmal showing of Saturday had merely been a blip on the radar for this young and promising outfit. It was infact nothing, compared to the apocalyptic debacle witnessed at Seddon Park this morning.
Captain Collingwood lost the toss and England were put into bat by New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori. A few minutes later, Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard made their way to the block to try and make amends for their failings first time around.
For six overs everything seemed to be going according to plan. The batsmen gauged the pace and bounce of the pitch much better and made an aggressive start. However, as he does too often Mustard went for one shot too many and was caught out when he could easily have played the ball along the ground through cover. With experience, Mustard is likely to cut these mistakes out of his game. Next ball, the under-pressure Ian Bell, fell for a golden duck due to an exceptional catch by keeper McCullum. Next in was Pietersen and together with Cook, they seemed to steady the ship. The pair were still at the crease when rain curtailed play for over 2 hours.
Upon the resumption of play, England fell apart. Daft shots and ridiculous run outs caused England to collapse from 90-2 to 158 all out. No dismissal was more farcical than that of Alastair Cook.
Ravi Bopara decided it would be a great idea to hit the ball straight to New Zealand's best fielder (Ross Taylor) and set off for a suicide single. Being the team player that he is, Cook tried to rescue the exigent situation and did his best to scamper up the pitch and try to prevent the loss of another England wicket. He was run out by a mile.
To make matters worse, Bopara played a painstaking innings from there on in and subsequently threw his wicket away. People will very quickly get annoyed with this laissez faire approach and the distinct lack of a sensible thought process.
On the other hand, Alastair Cook again played superbly for his innings of 53. Some would argue that he should have stood his ground and allowed Bopara to be run out. With more experience, he probably would have done so. However, he was completely innocent in his dismissal and one would only hope that Bopara later apologized for denying him a big innings. One can not be sure as to how many Cook would have gone on to make as the rest of the team hardly stuck around. However, had he stayed England's score might well have been upwards of 200; a much greater challenge under the constraints of Duckworth Lewis.
It is good to see that Cook is getting a fair run at the top of the order. He is a good complimenting opener to Mustard as he allows his colleague to take on the bowling. Despite missing out on the 20/20 matches, Cook has put in three very good performances so far on this tour and slowly his class seems to be showing through in the one-day arena. It is little wonder that he is being touted as the FEC. The man is only 23 years of age; yet he is playing with a humility and percipience that is frankly putting his senior counterparts to shame.
New Zealand's openers, McCullum and Ryder, showed no mercy whatsoever in their attempt at chasing down the inadequate total set by the opposition. England bowled very badly and the two batsmen slaughtered the bowling to take New Zealand past the winning post of 165 with 107 balls remaining. England had chances but wasted them; dropping McCullum on 0 and Ryder on 8. They finished on 80 and 79 respectively. Even so, England got what they deserved.
With the next game on Friday in Auckland, it is very hard to see how England are going to be able to pick themselves up in time. A plus for the visitors is that things really can't get much worse. Collingwood seemed keen on keeping an unchanged team for this match but after today's result, changes seem inevitable. Bell and Bopara both seem to be in torrid form and the only players who would be likely to come in for them are Luke Wright and Dimitri Mascarenhas. This would leave a probable batting order like so:
1. Alastair Cook
2. Phil Mustard (WK)
3. Kevin Pietersen
4. Paul Collingwood (Capt.)
5. Owais Shah
6. Dimitri Mascarehnas
7. Luke Wright
8. Greame Swann
9. Stuart Broad
10. Ryan Sidebottom
11. James Anderson
It is the opinion of many that Pietersen should bat at three because he is clearly England's best batsman. He should therefore be exposed to as much of the bowling as possible. On his day, Collingwood is most probably the side's second best one-day batsman, hence making him the obvious choice to be England's number four. Dimi Mascarehnas and Luke Wright both played well during the 20/20 series and would add a much needed impetus to the middle order.
England have talent, there is no doubt about that. They showed that they were made of sterner stuff during the 20/20s; yet their sudden loss of confidence is making them as weak as the rain water that disrupted play in Hamilton today. A promising, young and at times, exciting team they may be. It just seems at the moment, many of those promises are rather hollow.