England breaks drought by downing New Zealand


Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 20

All-rounder Andrew Flintoff lifted England to a drought-breaking three-wicket win over New Zealand in the triangular series one-day international yesterday.

England had to work hard to beat New Zealand's modest total of 205 and secure their first victory since arriving in Australia in early November.

Man of the match Flintoff hit 72 not out off 75 balls as England reached the required 206 runs with one ball to spare at Bellerive Oval.

England captain Michael Vaughan, who suffered from hamstring tightness during the match and is in doubt for Friday's game with Australia in Brisbane, said it was a relief to finally taste victory.

"It was an important day for us all, I knew we had to come out here and play a good game and I knew that we had to win today, just for the whole momentum of the tour," said Vaughan, who batted with a runner.

"We've had a tough tour, we haven't won any games," he said. "It's a huge game for us, we've got the season up and running, and we must take the momentum from this game into a big game against the Aussies on Friday."

But it wasn't easy for England.

When Ian Bell fell for 45, England was 138-5 and the game was in the balance. But Flintoff and Paul Nixon (15) put on 60 to guide their side to within eight runs to win before the latter was run out.

With 17 balls to go, victory seemed a formality, but New Zealand clawed their way back, leaving England chasing four runs in the last over.

Eventually, Flintoff picked up the winning run with a straight drive down the ground off part-time seamer Craig McMillan.

McMillan was needed as injury-plagued Kiwi fast bowler Shane Bond was off the field with back soreness during the latter stages of the England innings.

Flintoff, who also bowled impressively, batted with more restraint than usual and survived some anxious moments as the victory loomed.

In the 45th over, Flintoff just cleared New Zealand fieldsman Ross Taylor on the mid-wicket boundary from the bowling of Daniel Vettori.

With the game in the balance, Taylor was in a few meters from the fence and got a hand to the ball as he retreated, but it went for four.

In the 47th over, Flintoff was caught at mid-on from the bowling of Mark Gillespie, only for square-leg umpire Steve Davis to rule the waist-high full toss a no-ball.

The tight bowling of young Kiwi spinner Jeetan Patel, who took 2-34 and also fielded brilliantly, forced England to work hard for the win.

Earlier, seamer James Anderson took four wickets to give England an excellent chance of finally breaking their two-month drought.