The way the England-New Zealand series has progressed, it deserves a fitting finale with a decider at Chester-le-Street in Durham. Both sides have played their part in making the series an extremely exciting one. England kicked off the series with a superb all-round performance in the first match before New Zealand hit back with two comprehensive wins. Just when it seemed the Kiwis had the wood over the hosts, England hit back by chasing a record total to level the series. The hosts will have the momentum going into the decider, but the way the tournament has progressed, nothing can be predicted.
England will take a lot of confidence from the win at Trent Bridge. In spite of the fact that their bowlers conceded close to 350, the hosts chase the same down with six overs to spare, and seven wickets in hand. It was as authoritative a win as any England have registered in one-dayers over the years. Skipper Eoin Morgan led from the from with a dazzling century while Joe Root also chipped in with one. After the World Cup debacle, Morgan has been especially impressive in the series, making a significant contribution in each and every game. England have looked a lot more in command with their leader in match-winning form.
The openers Alex Hales and Jason Ray gave the side a whirlwind start at Trent Bridge, which should please the team. At the same time, they would hope for bigger scores from the duo, Hales in particular, for he has been around the international stage for a while now. Like New Zealand, England have also been conceding 300 plus scores, but that has had to do more with the nature of surfaces than the quality of bowling. Steven Finn, like Morgan, has come back well after the World Cup debacle. Ben Stokes too has bowled decently. What would be worrying them would be the injury to Jos Buttler, who may have to sit out of the match due to injury. That would be a massive blow to the side.
Since their bowlers have seemed incompetent at stopping the England batsmen, their batters, who have been in terrific form, will have to step up further. In case, New Zealand bat first, they would need to look for a score close to 400, since England chased down 350 with ease. Even that may not prove to be enough with the kind of form Morgan and co have been in. And, in case, they are made to chase, they need to be prepared to strike down anything in excess of 350. The batsmen from both sides have proved that chasing is easier than defending under the current conditions. But, with the series on the line, it remains to be seen how the sides response.
Like England, New Zealand's openers have also got starts, but haven't been able to convert those into big ones. Brendon McCullum is definitely due for a big one, and a huge knock from Martin Guptill will only be welcome. The Kiwis would be pleased with the rollicking form of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, and would be keen for them to continue with the same. Both have been consistently notching up big scores. In the last game, Mitchell Santner also gave glimpses of his talent with a brilliant cameo. New Zealand would definitely need better from their bowlers, especially the experienced Tim Southee.
--By A Cricket Analyst