LONDON, (Reuters) – A rejuvenated England head into today’s winner-takes-all fifth one-day international against New Zealand knowing that even a defeat would do little to spoil the buzz surrounding English limited-overs cricket.
A pulsating ODI series is currently tied 2-2 and Chester-le-Street in Durham will play host to the decider where an England side enthused with aggressive intent will come up against this year’s World Cup runners-up New Zealand.
England were humiliated at the World Cup where they went out in the group stage, but, under the guidance of caretaker coach Paul Farbrace and on-field leadership of Eoin Morgan, they are barely recognisable from their former cautious selves.
Trevor Bayliss will take charge of England ahead of the Ashes series and on current form the only notes in the Australian’s coaching manual will be ‘more of the same’.
England have bludgeoned their way to totals of 408, 365, 302 and 350 against a New Zealand side that have played their part in an explosive series under captain Brendon McCullum.
Chasing a target of 350 for victory to square the series on Wednesday, Morgan’s brutal 113 off 82 balls and a delightful 106 not out from Joe Root completed England’s highest successful run chase in one-day internationals with six overs to spare.
“I think the style is more important (than the victory),” Morgan said. “We’re trying to change something that probably doesn’t come as naturally as other nations, and it’s the way we play and it’s very encouraging at the moment.
“We’ve played very consistently with the bat but it’s no good trying to change something if you’re not doing it in a winning side so that’s a massive bonus.
“Going into Durham’s game, there’s a lot on the line. We’ll be firmly focused on the process playing against a champion side like New Zealand.”
Batsmen Morgan, Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have all flourished under England’s new licence to thrill mantra, while Mark Wood and Steven Finn have looked steady with the ball despite the free-scoring nature of matches.
England’s resurgence has given former captain Ian Botham renewed optimism ahead of the Ashes, which start of July 8.
“The cricket was electrifying,” Botham told Sky Sports. “I hope the Australians were watching.
“There’s a buzz about this England team and the way they are playing — so much so that everyone is talking about Saturday’s game now.”