Liam Livingstone’s rescue act bailed out England’s top order before a fine bowling performance saw Jos Buttler’s side claim a series-levelling victory over New Zealand in the Second ODI at Southampton.
In an innings shortened to 34 overs because of rain, England were reduced to 55 for five by a fine new-ball spell from Trent Boult, but Livingstone’s arrival at the crease marked the start of a superb recovery as the all-rounder backed up a half-century in the series opener to cement his Cricket World Cup place.
Batting at No7, Livingstone struck an unbeaten 95 from just 78 balls, by some margin his highest score in ODI cricket, and shared a vital hundred partnership with Sam Curran as the hosts scrambled to 226 for seven.
The Black Caps had chased brilliantly to win the First ODI by eight wickets in Cardiff on Friday night, but three wickets apiece for Reece Topley and David Willey saw the tourists skittled 79 runs short here, despite Daryll Mitchell’s half-century.
After a three-hour rain delay and a belated toss won by touring skipper Tom Latham, Boult could hardly have asked for more ideal conditions in which to make his New Zealand return, this the seamer’s first international cricket since last year’s T20 World Cup after he opted out of a central contract.
The left-armer struck three times in the space of eight balls to account for the high-class trio of Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes before the end of a condensed powerplay as England were left clinging on at eight for three.
With Jason Roy still struggling with a back spasm and Dawid Malan absent after welcoming the birth of his second child, Harry Brook was afforded another opportunity to push his World Cup case as a makeshift opener but, as in Cardiff, did not make the most of it. When the Yorkshireman was caught off the bowling of Matt Henry, England’s top four had contributed just nine runs between them.
In a shortened game, though, no rebuild could afford to be too tentative and Buttler’s aggression against the final over of Boult’s opening spell marked the start of a momentum shift. The captain eventually chopped on to Mitchell Santner for 30 from 25 balls but Moeen Ali sought to counter-attack in similar fashion, launching Rachin Ravindra onto the concourse before succumbing for 33 to a brilliant diving catch by Glenn Phillips, fearless in a full-length belly-flop onto the hardened square.
Livingstone, often pigeonholed as a big-hitting finisher, played at a tempo perfectly suited to the task, working through the gears as he took 17 runs off one Tim Southee over, not by muscling into the stands but instead timing crisply through cover and dabbing neatly to third-man.
"Into the crowd!" 6️⃣☄️
Liam Livingstone 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/VUoR9AJgRc
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 10, 2023
The 30-year-old’s half-century came from 47 balls as England powered towards the kind of total that had looked improbable in the midst of their top order collapse, and in circumstances that might have permitted more selfish farming of the strike, a first ODI hundred could well have been on the cards, too.
Willey had been starved of the new ball in Cardiff but made full use of it here, wasting a review for caught-behind from his first delivery but making immediate amends by striking with his second as Finn Allen was bowled for nought.
Gus Atkinson was impressive once more, claiming the key wicket of Devon Conway having hurried the opener with his extra pace, while Surrey teammate Topley returned to form following a lean run, his trio of wickets in a game-changing middle-over spell reducing the tourists from 111 for three to leave the chase ailing at 123 for six.
For as long as regular thorn Mitchell remained, England were not safe, but the centurion of two nights ago came unstuck against Moeen Ali’s full ball, clubbing to mid-off to give the spinner his 100th ODI wicket.