Paul Collingwood's side have rightly been lambasted for a pair of aberrant performances in this ODI series. But it is to his great credit that he led by example in the third game, claiming three wickets and scoring a rapid 70* to put England back on the right track.
Collingwood's pride has palpably been damaged by the first two games. Under his captaincy, the impression that England do not care for one-day cricket has gradually been eroded, as anyone who witnessed the jubilant celebrations upon winning the series in Sri Lanka would conform. Apathy has been a major problem for England in this format; too often, they have been blown away in series that have followed the Tests, with the players all seemingly longing for a return home. That is no longer the case, for Collingwood has made it his mission to make England a respected one-day outfit once more.
His performance today illustrated the good cricketing sense he has come to be associated with. His bowling in this format of the game continues to improve; canny and with plenty of guile, his brand of cutters and slower balls are well-accustomed to Kiwi wickets. With the bat, he was audacious and a little lucky but superb: his 70* from only 50 balls made a nervy run chase into a cakewalk, as he ruthlessly targeted New Zealand's band of medium-pacers after seeing off the brilliant Daniel Vettori.
While they have regained some respectability, it would still represent a major surprise if England produce two more similarly impressive showings. Clearly, they need Phil Mustard to make a significant contribution at the top; breezy cameos are not enough. But, at last, their much-vaunted middle-order lived up to the hype, with Ian Bell playing a fine innings and Kevin Pietersen, though far from his best, making a timely contribution. Collingwood's combativeness evoked the tenacity and skill he displayed in the incredible CB Series win last year. After their thrashings in the first two games, a turnaround England series victory would come close to that for shock value.