After choosing to bat first, when the toss went in their favor, England would not have thought about the nightmarish defeat that would be inflicted on them at the end. From 104/3, they succumbed to 123 all out in less than eight overs. New Zealand speedster Tim Southee held all the cards up his sleeve as he brought about an unprecedented English downfall. In the process, he returned with the dream ODI bowling figures of 7/33 in 9 overs, after which there was no need for him to bowl. If someone thought that the pitch had concealed some secret venom underneath, he couldn’t have made a worse assumption. Because coming after England’s sordid debacle, Brendon McCullum showed the art of explosive batting by hammering the English bowlers mercilessly in piling up 77 runs in just 25 balls. The force from McCullum’s sledgehammer was so great that 74 of those runs came from 8 fours and 7 huge sixes, many of which fell outside the ground and one massive hit even damaged a sponsor’s car. New Zealand also wrapped up the 8-wicket victory even before the 13th over to record a scoring rate of 10.13 overs to rub enough salt on England’s wound. When the end came, the shock was writ large on the Englishmen’s faces and Eoin Morgan looked like having dug the grave for the entire England team by opting to bat first.
In the ongoing CWC2015, Eoin Morgan is the most unfortunate player because he has been saddled by the huge burden of being England’s captain. His personal performance has hit rock bottom and such a person finds very difficult to talk with his team-mates with confidence. Therefore, when he won the toss, batted first and lost miserably, all accusing fingers went in his direction. Although it was a day/night match, the fresh Wellington pitch could have provided English bowlers something to work on. Though such thoughts are mere conjectures now, they help those, who look for scapegoats. Blame it on Eoin is fast acquiring as one of the adages of England’s ODI performances under Eoin Morgan. On Friday, when the two English openers walked to the crease to bat, they might still have had hopes of winning match no.8 for England. But Ian Bell was ill-at-ease, played 17 balls and scored 8 before being bowled by Tim Southee’s beautifully in-swinging delivery, which Bell thought would leave his stumps. Moeen Ali played like he always does, having apparently modeled his batting on “Sehwagian” style, where there is no scope for innings building. He was also beaten by a Southee in-swinger. That was the 7th over and England’s score read 36/2. Gary Ballance followed Ali, after he had played 26 balls for his 10 runs. The only Englishman, who looked like staying in; was Joe Root. With his luckless captain, Root added 47 runs for the fourth wicket before disaster struck. After playing 41 balls, Morgan could only manage 17 before he holed out to Adam Milne off Daniel Vettori.
England batsmen looked in a hurry to join their captain in the dressing room. First to go was James Taylor, who was yorked by Southee to make it 104/5. Jos Buttler couldn’t have blocked everything because he was under pressure to score. So he pushed an offside ball from Southee that took the edge of his bat for a catch to Ronchi. It was now 108/6 that soon became 110/7, when Chris Woakes became another Southee victim to be clean bowled. Poor Joe watched in awe from the other end as his colleagues wilted under New Zealand bowlers. Finally Root also fell as the last wicket. It was as pathetic a batting show as one can imagine with England batting collapsing in a heap for 123 in a space of less than 8 overs. They added just 19 runs after 104/3.
Unlike their inexplicable performance against Scotland three days back, New Zealand were not to repeat the feat. In sharp contrast to Eoin Morgan’s performance as captain, Brendon McCullum was a personification of a frontline leader. He came out with guns blazing and got to the blast straightaway. Martin Guptill took 7 runs from the first over and McCullum just one. In the second over, McCullum took 18 runs with a six and 3 fours. There was no stopping him now as he thrashed Steven Finn for 2 sixes and 2 fours in the fourth over. Finn was to suffer worse fate in his next over that yielded 29 runs. McCullum clobbered him for 4 sixes and Guptill took 5. At the end of 7 overs, New Zealand had already reached 105, when McCullum departed. Had he continued, the victory might have come under 10 overs. However, Kane Williamson delayed it by being unusually slow. But New Zealand still reached the target with more than 37 overs remaining in the innings.