DUNEDIN, New Zealand, March 7, (AFP): Injury-hit Ross Taylor played through the pain to score a remarkable unbeaten 181 and seal a series-levelling win for New Zealand in the fourth one-day international against England Wednesday.
Taylor limped through much of his innings in Dunedin after aggravating a thigh injury, but batted on to compile a career-best innings and make it 2-2 in the series with one to play.
New Zealand ended on 339 for five in reply to England’s 335 for nine, winning by five wickets and taking the five-match series to a crunch decider in Christchurch on Saturday.
Taylor scored 17 fours and six sixes as New Zealand reached the target with three balls to spare, wincing with pain after every shot in the latter half of his innings.
“It’s still sinking in,” he said after tearfully leaving the field to a standing ovation, revealing team medics gave him the option of retiring hurt due to the pain.
“I was glad I made the decision to stay out there and swing.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson rated Taylor’s innings as “one of the great one-day knocks” and said he hoped the batsman would be fit for the decider.
“Ross’s knock was just sensational, he’s kind of been batting like that all year,” he said.
“Hopefully his injuries are minor and we can see him in the next game.”
Taylor’s heroics in scoring his 19th ODI century overshadowed a fine batting performance from England, marred by a late collapse that cost them dearly.
Jonny Bairstow blazed his way to 138 off 106 balls and Joe Root grafted out a hard-fought 102 before England self-destructed late in their innings.
England captain Eoin Morgan had no explanation for the collapse but was confident his side’s deep batting line-up would not fail so spectacularly again.
“It isn’t ideal. Normally one of us (batsmen) comes off, so it is a first,” he said.
“We won’t look into it too much at the moment if he happens consistently we’ll have to do something.”
New Zealand’s chase started disastrously when openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro both went for ducks.
Kane Williamson and Taylor rebuilt with an 84-run partnership before England’s star all-rounder Ben Stokes dismissed the New Zealand captain at 45 in the 17th over.
Taylor and Tom Latham then combined for a 187-run partnership, with Latham contributing 71.
Taylor’s injury came when he was on 109 and had to dive to avoid a run-out, inflaming the thigh strain that forced him out of the previous match in the series.
Unable to run freely, he concentrated on hitting boundaries, taking New Zealand to the position where they needed 80 off the final 10 overs.
England slowed New Zealand’s momentum with Latham’s dismissal and Colin de Grandhomme’s departure on 23.
Henry Nicholls looked nervy when he came to the crease but worked well to give Taylor most of the strike.
With three runs needed off the final over, Nicholls faced two dot balls then smashed Tom Curran for six to seal the win.
England should have put the match beyond reach after Bairstow and Root had them at 267 for 1 in the 38th over.
But Bairstow’s departure sparked a collapse that saw six wickets go for 21 runs, ending their hopes of setting a monster total on the small University Oval ground.
A late cameo of 22 off 10 balls from Curran added a degree of difficulty to the target but also showed New Zealand’s batsmen that there were runs in the pitch.
Ish Sodhi led the Black Caps’ fightback with the ball, taking four for 58, while Colin Munro and Trent Boult took two wickets apiece.