New Zealand 339 for 5 (Taylor 181*, Latham 71) beat England 335 for 9 (Bairstow 138, Root 102, Sodhi 4-58) by five wickets
You know those moments in childhood when you’d rock on down to the local dairy and nab a dollar mix, and the feeling you’d get when you ripped into it and it was full of the best candy out? That’s exactly how everyone who attended the 4th ODI between New Zealand and England felt after the last ball was bowled. It was almost as perfect as a cricket game could possibly get.
Climbing up to a comfortable 20 degrees as the crowd flocked in at 11 am, the students walking funnily with myriad liquors on their persons, we all knew that it was do-or-die for NZ, 2-1 down going into the fourth game of the five game series. In the early stages, it looked set for disappointment, as the English openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow set the Barmy Army alight with glorious strokes to all angles. After a swift start, Roy departed and Joe Root came to the crease to be part of the innings’ centerpiece. Bairstow reached his third ODI century – all as an opener – from 83 deliveries, while Root reached his from 99 balls. But they suffered a middle-order meltdown as they lost 8 for 46 to slump from 267 for 1 to 313 for 9. Huge credit must be given to Ish Sodhi for orchestrating the effort in pegging England back. Still, it was the second-highest total on the ground, and New Zealand had their work cut out for them to retain their unbeaten record at the University Oval.
In front of a capacity crowd of 5,442, New Zealand got off to the worst start imaginable. 2-2 after 2 overs, the menacing Munro and notorious double-ton threat Guptill were back in the sheds. Ross Taylor, in the self-proclaimed form of his career, set about steadying the ship with his captain Kane Williamson, and they dragged NZ back into the contest at 86/3, before Williamson perished pulling at Ben Stokes’s first delivery. In came Tom Latham, with question marks over his ability to score runs in home conditions against quality fast bowling. There certainly won’t be any questions remaining, after he pulled and punched the likes of Mark Wood and Tom Curran to provide the perfect foil for Taylor.
Latham fell to Tom Curran's slower-ball, finding mid-off with 63 needed from 48 balls. De Grandhomme was promoted and struck his first two balls for four, followed by two sixes off Curran in the 44th over to firmly swing things New Zealand's way. Woakes went for just three off the 45th and Curran then removed de Grandhomme, but there would be no denying Taylor. In spite of his numerous injuries while at the crease, having been there at 2/2, he sure as hell was going to be there at 336 for however many it would be.
Taylor had the pressure of chasing a huge total and had to weigh up keeping his wicket intact as well as keeping the run rate in check, and helping the new batsmen to settle when we lost a wicket, all while playing through an injury. Whenever it seemed the required run-rate was starting to escalate, Taylor dispatched the English attack over long-on, mid-wicket, cover or point with aplomb, and showed the maturity of a man who has spent well over a decade in the international cauldron. His mentor, the late, great Martin Crowe would be immensely proud.
For the record, Taylor’s 181* was
- The second highest score by a #4 in the history of LOI cricket after Viv Richard's 189* (in a 60-over ODI)
- The highest score by a #4 in 50-over cricket
- The sixth highest score by a non-opener in ODIs
- The third highest ODI score by a New Zealander
- The fourth highest second innings ODI score of all-time
The days of 336 being virtually unchaseable are long gone. Still, this was remarkable.