Forget the doom-mongers and obituary writers, the One Day International is alive and well as yesterday’s first-of-three match between New Zealand and England proved. A low-scoring first innings by England in the surrounds of the cheerily sedate Seddon Park in Hamilton set up a tense encounter which the home side won by three wickets. In fairness, the critics of this format have had it easy; the T20 juggernaut continues to consume all before it with more seemingly hastily assembled national leagues popping up at will all over the globe and the money and airtime poured into this version seemingly endless while, like the long fight sketch in The Fast Show, ODI series drone on and on seemingly irrelevantly. Witness recent dead horse flogging (to be topical) tournaments on England v Australia tours and innumerable, inconsequential subcontinental round robins.
How many games are there? Who’s winning? Are they still playing? Haven’t they gone home yet?

Who cares?

In this series the balance is right. The best of three. The audience remain captive, the players remain fresh, the competition is concentrated.
Less is definitely more.

What else have we learned from last night? That, for all the gloomy locals protestations, NZ cricket, especially in this format is alive and well.
In Kane Williamson the New Zealanders have unearthed a real gem. Williamson has it all, temperament, technique, tempo. Here, Williamson’s well made 74 , before being deftly run out by an all Warwickshire combination of Chris Woakes and Ian Bell, was the catalyst for his team’s reply. His repair job following the Black Caps early travails provided the ballast for captain Brendon McCullum’s match winning salvo.
Of concern to the Kiwis should be how much they come to depend upon this talent in the next ten years over all three formats because Williamson will undoubtedly have to carry his nation at various times as some of the old guard step down and some of the, as yet unidentified new blood, step up. Burn out could be a problem, especially with the higher paying, aforementioned T20 vultures looking to claim this tyro for their own selfish needs. Test cricket needs more Williamsons coming through and to deny crowds the sight of players of this quality would be another body blow for the traditional game that seems to be falling in favour everywhere but its birthplace.

A player already sadly prematurely lost to Test cricket is Kyle Mills, yet in one day cricket he is still a real handful. Ably supported by the eager, brisk left armer Mitchell McClenaghan, who deservedly finished with a four wicket haul, Mills pinned England down at important intervals returning impressively miserly figures of 32-2 from his ten overs.

McCullum’s 69 from 61 balls underlined his importance to the national side, despite his unwitting involvement in an uncomfortable, politically dominated summer which has had Kiwi fans squirming in embarrassment. His role as finisher here showed England how to make use of the last fifteen overs. While England stuttered, losing wickets and groping around for runs in the latter stages of their innings, McCullum flourished, taking England’s probable Test pace attack apart with characteristic verve as he reined in the target of 259 with help from firstly brother Nathan, then the war-wounded Martin Guptill.

England, meanwhile, know they are looking down the barrel with two to play. Their task in Napier on Wednesday is simple; win. Something that is very achievable given their playing resources, but they need to improve a long way in a short time. They were good in parts here , Joe Root’s 56 giving a further example of his growing importance to England across all formats. Bell looked in excellent touch, before falling when well set on 64. Jonathon Trott top scored with 68 while James Anderson overtook Sir Ian Botham to become England’s all time leading wicket taker.

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