Most of England’s World Cup squad will spend the next few weeks resting before flying to India, but they will struggle to reach a more restful state than the one in which they beat New Zealand for the third time in a row. Buoyed by Dawid Malan’s 127, they set a target of 311, which quickly fell out of reach of a Black Caps side perhaps distracted by a potentially tournament-ending injury to Tim Southee, and eventually strolled to victory by 100 runs.
So close to a major tournament there is no fate a player fears more than injury, and the dislocated and broken bone in Southee’s right thumb will hurt all the more knowing it was sustained in Joe Root’s fall. “Of course he will be assessed in the coming days, but fortunately we still have some time,” said Tom Latham, his captain. “He’s a pretty resilient character so I’m sure he’ll do everything he can to be on the plane, but it’s hard to say at this point what the time frame will be.”
England also have some injury concerns, with Jason Roy out again with a back problem. But Malan’s form has diminished the significance of Roy’s absence and had he not gone home to a one-week-old baby, the 36-year-old would be entitled to spend the next two weeks with his feet up and a grin on his face.
Two days after falling to 96 at the Oval, he improved by 31 at Lord’s and, in the process, scored his 1,000th ODI run – in just his 21st game – with a hard, flat six off Kyle Jamieson.
It now seems absurd that Malan was preparing for this series just ten days ago while a chorus of voices suggested he should be retired to make way for Harry Brook, but for the doubters this innings was less than two fingers rather than three numbers. “It’s satisfying to be able to silence some people who always have negative things to say,” Malan said.
“My job is to score runs and as long as I can do that then hopefully I can maintain the support from the dressing room because I’ve always felt supported by the guys who are important there.” To stay in this team, added Malan, “You either have to be an absolute freak or you have to be consistent enough to keep your name in the hat, and I had to be that constant.”
It turns out that the Malan glue factory is far from ready Is the glue factory, and through his three appearances in this series he was the one who stitched England’s innings together. This was a third century in his last seven ODIs and his average in 21 international appearances rose to 57.32. But since joining the England national team, he has somehow never reached the point where a few poor results are seen as a blip rather than a reason to question the wisdom of his signing at all.
Luckily for Root, England’s former Test captain. His 29 here was by far his best score of the series, but apart from a half lead from Rachin Ravindra, from which he snatched a four and a fine slog-swept six, it was never particularly good. There were two attempts at that reverse ramp, both missing, and two falls at a wide second slip – including Southee’s – against the hapless Ben Lister, who himself had to be forced off the field with a hamstring injury, scuppering his planned return to Kent .
Ravindra made up for the misfortune of some of his team-mates with a bit of luck and developed the excellent habit of taking good wickets with bad balls: Brook tried to punish a long-hop but shot it straight down middle, Malan chased a wide one after him with the top edge into Latham’s gloves, and Moeen Ali sent another very long throw that was high and far away.
Having been their leading wicket-taker, Ravindra made the outstanding contribution to New Zealand’s response by a wide margin, eventually, after Lister challenged himself to join him at the crease, reaching a level that no other batsman on either side could achieve . He hit Liam Livingstone and Moeen with sixes in successive overs, forcing England to switch to close combat. He then hit Brydon Carse with two sixes and two fours, increasing the tally from 25/32 to 61/45, his first international half-century. He faced three more balls and scored no further runs before being beaten by Sam Curran’s yorker, ending the game.