Brilliant centuries from Kane Williamson (118) and Ross Taylor (110) saw New Zealand secure a convincing three wicket victory on what was a record-breaking day at the Ageas Bowl.
Upon winning the toss, England elected to bat first on a typically high-quality pitch from head groundsman Nigel Gray, and again looked to continue their theme of positive cricket from the previous contests between the two sides.
Fifties from Eoin Morgan (71), Ben Stokes (68) and Joe Root (54) wowed the sell-out crowd as England posted a competitive 302 before being bowled out in the 46th over.
Despite two early wickets, Williamson and Taylor both hit outstanding hundreds to entertain both the thousands of young and old in attendance, whilst claiming an important win to take a 2-1 series lead.
With overcast conditions overhead, England began their innings aggressively as Alex Hales (23) looked to take advantage during the early powerplay overs, however, both Hales and opening partner Jason Roy (9) departed early with the score 34-2.
The early dismissals brought Captain Morgan and also Root to the crease and both men again looked in good touch following fine innings in the previous fixture.
Root was the first to bring up his half-century, the right-hander bringing up the milestone in just 52 balls and with it came the hundred partnership as both vice-captain and skipper sought to further their side’s total.
The valuable partnership came to a close however when Root was unfortunate to see the ball ricochet off his pad and onto the stumps, but his downfall saw Stokes arrive at the crease, and he too was quick to make his presence felt with quick boundaries.
Morgan then brought up his fifty to steer England to 178-3 and he looked to increase his total before he was removed by Williamson just before drinks.
Although the skipper’s departure was untimely, Stokes continued his positive approach and an array of hefty blows saw him bring up his half-century from just 31 balls and England back on the front-foot as a result.
However a mini-collapse courtesy of some good bowling from Tim Southee (3-44) and Ben Wheeler (3-63) saw England lose their final 5 wickets for 19 runs to finish 302 all out from 45.2 overs.
With the sun shining proudly over the new Hilton Hotel end, New Zealand faltered early as David Willey (3-69), playing in his second ODI, trapped Martin Guptill (2) LBW as he ran in fiercely in-front of the new facility.
Another wicket then fell as danger-man Brendon McCullum (11) departed shortly after to Mark Wood (1-49) who also struck inside his first six deliveries to help England begin positively.
However superb knocks from Williamson and Taylor made things difficult for the hosts as they built a formidable partnership.
The right-handers steered New Zealand through a tough period of good bowling and as the swinging conditions subsided and batting became easier, runs flowed at a quicker pace to see New Zealand reach 137-2 from the opening 20 overs.
Williamson reached his half-century at a rate of less than a run a ball and Taylor soon followed as the hundred partnership between the two was reached in just 84 balls.
Despite England’s bowlers toiling away both batsman continued at a canter and Williamson brought up his century before Taylor again emulated his partners efforts with a well-made century of his own, as the two shared a mammoth partnership of 206, the highest third-wicket partnership at The Ageas Bowl.
Although a flurry of late wickets from England, the away-side snuck home to bring an enthralling day of international cricket at The Ageas Bowl to a close.
Words: Will Brewster