England extended its trying summer in Australia yesterday when it beat New Zealand by 14 runs to qualify for the finals of cricket's limited overs tri-series.
After being swept 5-0 by Australia in the Ashes Test series and winning only two of its seven previous matches in the one-day tournament, England posted its second straight win to gain a place opposite the Australians in the best-of-three match final.
Paul Collingwood made 106 -- his third limited overs century and first against New Zealand -- as England reached 270 for seven batting first and Liam Plunkett took three for 60 as the Kiwis were held to 256 for eight in reply.
Stephen Fleming matched Collingwood's score, making 106 -- his sixth one-day hundred and his highest score against England, beating his previous best of 99.
But Fleming's painstaking innings may have cost New Zealand the match as he was unable to lift the scoring rate when it was necessary and led his team to a defeat by small and painful degrees.
Fleming put on 81 with Lou Vincent (31) for New Zealand's first wicket and had his team well ahead of the required run rate of 5.4 runs per over through most of the first half of their innings.
He added a further 62 with Ross Taylor (25) for the third wicket and, when he incautiously ran out Taylor in the 35th over, New Zealand was 169 for three and needed an attainable 102 to win from 95 balls.
From that point on, New Zealand's innings lost its structure and its target run rate crept higher and higher as it struggled against accurate England bowling and desperate fielding.
Fleming, whose previous highest score in the series was 29 in the opening match, became more obviously tired and frustrated. The timing which he had lacked earlier in the series, which he had just begun to find, slowly but noticeably deserted him.
He reached his century from 138 balls with 11 fours but took his next six runs from 11 balls without another boundary as New Zealand stumbled toward an embarrassing defeat.
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