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And so the baton is handed over

Posted in England in New Zealand 2008

Michael Vaughan & Steve Harmison

© Getty Images

In the end, the rain came and ruined everything. We might as well have been back in England, for all the timing of Mother Nature.

For anyone in the ground, there was a tension and pressure building with the rainclouds as Sidebottom barged England back into the match. Two wickets in two balls changed the whole feel of the contest, and memories of Napier seemed to inhibit the Kiwi lower order.

Indeed, much like Napier, it had seemed that the England batting performance would be enough on a slow-ish wicket. However, the more eagle-eyed amongst the crowd would have been both elated and worried by the ease with which Mascarenhas smashes 22 off the final over to leave England with 242 from their 50 overs.

Prior to then, the side had struggled considerably to get to grips with a slightly two-paced track, and initially it was only the introduction of the swashbuckling Luke Wright that gave England any momentum.

He introduced himself with a huge six over long-on, and went on to take 47 runs off 40 balls. With the Dimitri fireworks wrapping things up, the England fans were in healthy voice.

But McCullum again had other ideas. He absolutely blazed away and took the game away from England almost before they had blinked. A few earthed catches did not help matters, but the speed of which that little piece of leather travelled, it's a wonder the other side of the ground wasn't demolished (the AMI Stadium is undergoing a dramatic overhaul at present).

So it was at 197 for three then that Styris holed out at mid-off, and then the rampaging Sidebottom picked up two wickets in two balls - the second of which being the dangerous Oram. The cooker went up a number of notches, and the lid almost blew off when a huge appeal against Vettori for a catch behind was not upheld.

Then of course, perhaps stirred by the racket being occurring in sleepy Christchurch, a group of mean looking clouds swaggered over and caught everyone by surprise. A burst of rain delayed play enough for Duckworth Lewis to set New Zealand a target they had already surpassed (they were 213 for six at the time), and therefore condemned England to defeat in both the match and the series.

In truth, the result could not be argued, as despite some real positives to take out of the series overall New Zealand had the upper hand. Indeed, as Paul Collingwood said in the presser, England have become an excellent comeback side but they need to assert themselves on games. A fair summation I would say.

And so it is the baton is handed over, and Collingwood was not too disappointed to slip back into the ranks after a steady stream of one-day cricket since last summer. With Vaughan, Harmison, Hoggard, Panesar and Strauss all joining up with the squad, we say goodbye to the likes of Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright.

It would not be too great an assumption to suggest the pair of them will be involved in the longer form (in Bopara's case a return) before long.

So, after a late finish it's up early for the flight to Dunedin, and first impressions are good. The drought (ironically after last night's proceedings) seems to have been more kind to this area of the South Island, and the greens trees and rolling hills give the first impressions of Hobbiton and Middle Earth (for all you Tolkien fans).

News already that neither Collingwood nor Pietersen would be considered for the first warm-up match, and there are also mild doubts over Harmison's back. Other than that, it would seem Vaughan is ready to get back into action.

Apparently this is also a good area for Sky Diving, so if I can find a spare evening I may broadcast ECBtv from 15,000 feet. Until that undeniable high, you can watch interviews with Luke Wright, England Women's Rosalie Birch, and also catch the reaction to England's defeat on ECBtv right now.

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