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England hit the jackpot when they picked Jonathan Bairstow as a replacement for the injured Jos Buttler as he smashed an unbeaten 83 to lead his side to a three-wicket win via the Duckworth-Lewis method in the fifth and final ODI in Durham.
Even though Bairstow did not get a lot of support from his fellow batsmen, England still won the rain-affected showdown to clinch the series 3-2.
With everything on the line, England skipper Eoin Morgan would have been pleased with his decision to bowl first early on as New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum’s woes with the bat continued when he was clean bowled by Steven Finn for six runs.
However, England were made to wait for for almost 20 overs before they got their next wicket as Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill amassed a 94-run partnership, during which Williamson brought up his half-century, before he was cleaned up by Ben Stokes.
Williamson’s solid innings of 50 came off 65 balls and included five boundaries.
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Guptill also surpassed his half-century and went on to make 67 off 73 deliveries, which included six boundaries and a six, before he was caught behind off the bowling of Stokes.
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With Mitchell Santner failing to have an impact with the bat, New Zealand were in need of another big partnership. Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott answered the call as they put together a 55-run partnership before a lapse in concentration led to Elliott being stumped by Bairstow off the bowling of Adil Rashid for 35.
Elliott’s dismissal seemed to affect Taylor as he also threw his wicket away when he was caught behind off the bowling of David Willey for 47.
Following Taylor’s dismissal, England continued to peg New Zealand back with regular wickets.
But, New Zealand left-arm seamer Ben Wheeler refused to go down with a fight as he stunned England with a highly entertaining counter-attack.
Wheeler ended up making a career-high 39 not out, which included two boundaries and three sixes, as New Zealand finished on 283/9 off their 50 overs.
Stokes was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Finn, Rashid and Willey chipped in with two wickets apiece.
With the heavens parting during the innings break, England were eventually set a revised target of 192 to win off 26 overs.
Despite not having as many runs to defend, Santner began to flex his muscles as he sliced through England’s top order, dismissing Alex Hales, Joe Root and Morgan. To make things worse, debutant Andrew Mathieson removed Jason Roy and Wheeler got rid of Stokes as England were reduced to 45/5.
With England struggling to stay above the surface, Bairstow and Sam Billings mustered a vital 80-run partnership before Billings was caught by Taylor at short midwicket off the bowling of Matt Henry for 41.
Willey was dismissed soon after, but Bairstow and Rashid finished things off with an unbeaten 54-run partnership.
Bairstow finished on 83 off 60 balls, which included 11 boundaries, while Rashid remained undefeated on 12 off 25 deliveries, which included two boundaries.
Santner was the most successful bowler with three wickets, while Wheeler snapped up two and Mathieson and Henry claimed one wicket each.
McCullum was gutted to have lost, and said: “It has been a tremendous series. The Test matches were keenly fought, the cricket here has been nothing short of sensational. They [England] have some amazing talents and will be a tough team to beat. Credit to England. They held their nerve under pressure when the series was on the line.
“We are hurting to have come second but the new talents did well for us. I am really excited. Cricket in our country is in a good space. Credit to England for being the better team. If England had lost the game, they would have felt unlucky. Somebody has to win, the other has to lose.”
Morgan was ecstatic to have won the series after being 2-1 down, and said: “It will sink in, in the next few days. Jonny Bairstow was incredible. Everything that has happened this series is stuff we had strived for. The attitude and skill level has been high against a quality side like New Zealand. The support at Durham has been magnificent. It wasn’t only me, it was a huge squad performance. There is a great feel-good factor around at the moment and we will look to take it to the Ashes.”
Bairstow was named Man of the Match, and said: “It has been fantastic to come back in, it was been wonderful and special. Disappointing for Jos but I was happy to make a contribution. These guys have worked very hard. We knew we had three overs of Powerplay. I am pleased with the way am playing in four-day cricket, ODIs and T20s. I worked hard in the winter and Caribbean and had a pretty tough family time, with my grandpa passing away.”
Williamson was named Man of the Series, and said: “It was an unbelievable series. The way England played was outstanding. Full credit to them, they deserved it. We played alright as well. Overall, it has been a great series to be part of. I am trying to just form partnerships and I was happy to contribute throughout the series. Good batting surfaces and made for great viewing.”