Fleming's century in vain as New Zealand snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
Paul Collingwood scores centuryStrauss plays supporting role to perfection
BRISBANE: New Zealand, whose captain Stephen Fleming was leading the way with his seventh one-day century, choked in the last 12 overs and allowed England to head into the finals of the tri-series after trailing for most of the game.
It was also at the end of one of the worst tours in England's history with a 5-0 Ashes defeat and only one other victory in the one-dayers.
England made 270 and New Zealand 256 for eight, but in those last dozen overs it was the tightest one-day match you can imagine and too close to be decided by as much as 14 runs.
Fleming will have to take most of the blame for the way New Zealand snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
England's captain Michael Vaughan, back after a hamstring injury in time for this crunch match, will not only pick up the glory but has the chance to win the series against Australia even though the majority of cricket people had written England off and thought of it as a laughing stock.
"We have shown tonight that when the chips are down we have some great cricketers in our ranks," Vaughan said. "It was victory all about hanging in and showing strength of character. Luckily we have plenty of guys with an abundance of character."
The turning point came when Fleming was responsible for the run out of Ross Taylor who had made 25 of 27 balls. At that moment New Zealand needed 102 in 15 overs.
When Fleming was eighth out 11 overs later the Kiwis were a beaten side, still 39 runs from their target. The sight of him dragging himself away from the crease after being caught off Andrew Flintoff was among the saddest I have seen in top class cricket.
"We have gone forward another step towards the World Cup," he said showing that he had recovered his sense of proportion. "I still think we have a lot to offer."
This determined captain must have thought the game was won when his bowlers restricted England to 270 although that was always going to be a competitive total.
England was forced into a patch-up and repair job when Vaughan was bowled first ball but it was the famous Vaughan cool which kept New Zealand under control in those last tense overs.
Vaughan won the toss and, on a pitch without malice, Bond produced a fast off break that turned Vaughan around and crashed into his stumps.
The remaining 48.5 overs were essentially a rescue even though Andrew Strauss, with his highest score of the tour, and man of the match Paul Collingwood, with another nicely-judged third one-day hundred put on 103 for the fourth wicket. I hope this Collingwood century is not forgotten as quickly by the selectors as his double century in the Adelaide Test.
At this point Fleming's head shaking over his men's fielding mistakes was forgotten as he and Lou Vincent made 81 for the opening stand in 14 overs. That stand, which forced 64 runs in the first ten overs should have killed England's hopes.
So it might but for four wickets from Liam Plunkett and a diving catch by Monty Panesar, often thought of as an inadequate fielder.
But on a night when stars like Andrew Flintoff could bowl three maidens against batsmen intent on attack, when the often over-anxious wicketkeeper Paul Nixon could take two fine catches and Vaughan regain his status as one of the world's finest captains, we saw cricket under the lights at its best even though Australia was not playing.
The finals may be magnificent.