WELLINGTON: Moeen Ali was as surprised as anyone as he combined with Adil Rashid to plunder New Zealand’s batting stocks in England’s dramatic four-run victory in the third one-day international in Wellington on Saturday.
Not even an unbeaten 112 by Kane Williamson could save New Zealand after their top order disappeared in Ali and Rashid’s devastating spell of five wickets for 23 runs in 41 deliveries.
When time was up New Zealand were 230 for eight in reply to England’s 234 after Chris Woakes bowled two dot balls to Williamson to end the match.
“My plan was just to try and bowl tight, it doesn’t really change game to game, and the wickets just came,” said man of the match Ali, who finished with three for 36 while Rashid took two for 34.
“They weren’t great balls, but the balls in between were building pressure.”
The game boiled down to New Zealand skipper Williamson needing a six off the final ball, but a wide yorker from Woakes meant he was unable to deliver.
New Zealand appeared to have the game in their hands at 80 for one in the 18th over, before Ali and Rashid turned the match.
Williamson denied there were concerns about the brittle New Zealand batting performance.
“Not really. It was a game where we weren’t at our smartest. We didn’t adjust well on a tough surface and that’s all it is,” said Williamson, adding it was a “very frustrating” defeat.
“Starting off in our second innings we were in a position of strength after maybe 15 overs then we stumbled a bit in the middle which really hurt us … and just a shame not to get across the line.
“And credit to the way the English spinners bowled through the middle. They were outstanding.”
Ben Stokes took a stunning dive to his left to catch Colin Munro (49) off Rashid to ignite the slump as New Zealand went from a comfortable 80 for one to 103 for six.
Williamson, who had struggled for runs in recent innings and missed the second ODI, which England won, because of a hamstring strain, returned to the arena with an imperious performance for his 11th ODI century.
He faced 143 deliveries and was in the middle for most of the New Zealand innings after the early dismissal of Martin Guptill for three.
Williamson shared a 68-run stand with Munro, and once Ali and Rashid had destroyed the rest of the recognised New Zealand batting he engineered a revival with Mitchell Santner.
Santner was given the benefit of the doubt on two when Jason Roy took a catch at ground level and there was no clear evidence the ball had not touched the grass.
From there he was more circumspect to reach 41 before being run out when a Woakes attempt to stop a Williamson drive deflected off the bowler’s fingertips and on to the stumps, with Santner caught out of his crease.
Woakes, defending 15 runs in the final over, conceded two twos and a six to Williamson and then fired in two dot balls to prevent a New Zealand victory.
England, having been sent into bat first, struggled to 234 built around a 71-run stand for the fourth wicket by Eoin Morgan and Stokes.
Although the wicket offered variable bounce it held no serious demons, and the top nine England batsmen all reached double figures.
Their problem was no one could settle in long-term, and New Zealand part-time medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme was allowed to bowl 10 overs in which he took one for 24.
Ish Sodhi was more expensive with his leg breaks but still claimed three wickets for 53, while there were three late run outs as England pushed for runs at the end of their innings.
Morgan top scored for the tourists with 48 off 71 while Stokes, the England hero when they won the second ODI three days ago, contributed 39 off 73.
The fourth match in the series is in Dunedin on Wednesday. —AFP