Cricket: Ryder heading for cult status

By Dylan Cleaver

When Sir Richard Hadlee made the mildly shocking announcement that reformed wild child Jesse Ryder would partner Brendon McCullum at the top of the one-day order, he promised exciting times.

Early indications are inconclusive but promising.

Chasing an inadequate total of 130, Ryder and McCullum took the game away from England in the first 10 overs, posting a quickfire 50 partnership that was full of meaty intent and just the odd slice of luck.

Ryder, the one-time enfant terrible of New Zealand cricket, might not exactly look the part - Jenny Craig would still find enough material there to work with - but he can bat in a manner that will see him become a cult figure on the terraces and embankments of New Zealand.

He won't be allowed to forget his intemperate past in a hurry. A sign at the ground yesterday read: "Jesse Ryder's favourite shot - tequila."

Like every other barb pointed his way since his surprise selection, Ryder will take that in good humour: someone has clearly got into his head this season and the results, off the field, have been revelatory.

On the field he has struggled to post the big scores he managed, somewhat ironically, when he had a terrible attitude and application.

Yesterday, though, he gave an extended glimpse of his enormous talent. Yes, 31 off 50 balls is not enough to start eulogising, but it was an important cameo both in the context of the match and his career.

An effortless pick-up into the stands and a flat-bat drive over cover were two shots worth preserving.

Captain Daniel Vettori, back from injury after missing the Twenty20 internationals, said Ryder had proved a positive influence on the field and in the changing sheds.

"He's fitted in well," he said. "I'd never dealt with him before, never seen him play. He's a good player. He bats well, he bowls well and he fields well. Any time you have someone like that come into your team it's a positive."

Vettori heaped praise on his bowlers who he said made it hard for him to captain. He struggled to get second spinner Jeetan Patel into the attack because the seamers were bowling so well. It was, for once, a pleasant dilemma.

The only way England could work their way back into the match after their woeful batting effort on a four-paced pitch was to take quick wickets. Ryder and McCullum, with a belligerent 42 from 42 balls, did not allow that pressure to get in the way of their natural games.

When they went things stalled briefly. While it was never going to put New Zealand in peril, Jamie How gave more ammunition to his detractors who believe he does not have the ability to turn strike over enough to be a top-class one-day player. His score of 28 from 41 was not a good return and, while there was some real class in his pull shots, there needs to be more happening in between the big shots.

Taylor bagged a not out 24 and redeemed himself slightly after his brain freeze in Christchurch on Thursday.

England will feel like they were mugged. From the two one-day warm-up matches through the two Twenty20 internationals they have encountered excellent batting strips.

When Paul Collingwood won the toss and decided to bat on the drop-in pitch, he clearly had no idea of the horrors that awaited.

Some balls skidded through, some squatted while most looped through tennis-ball style.

A well-disciplined New Zealand bowling unit exploited those conditions well, especially Chris Martin (why he missed out on Man of the Match will be the game's only enduring mystery) at the top, and Scott Styris through the middle.

"What they did today was analyse it very well from the start," said Collingwood. "They bowled across the seam and a lot of cutters. Everyone thought it was going to be a belter of a wicket but, when you realise it isn't, you've still got to build a total."

Collingwood lamented the lack of any partnerships and said the lack of a wicket block also contributed to a low total because the ball stopped quickly once leaving the wicket.

Still, England would be disappointed they couldn't muster a competitive total. Their top four all missed straight ones and three of their middle order ran themselves out.

You won't win many one-dayers doing that, no matter how good the pitch is.

Perhaps, too, New Zealand have found the secret, forget the flat pitches, get them on these type of tracks.

As one grizzled ex-international said: "New Zealand won. It was a bloody great pitch."

England 130 lost to New Zealand 131-4

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