Put this top of New Zealand's to-dos ahead of Wednesday's important fourth ODI against England - sort out a misfiring middle order after another poor night out at the Cake Tin.

England won a thriller by four wickets, 234 against 230 for eight, a throwback game and an antidote for all the 340 vs 330 one-dayers on roads around the cricket globe.

In the course of a match which coach Mike Hesson noted the hosts could have won and lost several times, New Zealand were once again let down by the middle order.

In game one at Hamilton, five New Zealand batsmen between Nos 1-7 combined for just 29 runs.


In game two it was 35 runs from No 1-7, and on Saturday night it slipped further - just 14 from those batting positions. That included ducks for Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls and three from de Grandhomme.

Nicholls' last six ODI innings this season have produced 0, 52 not out, 1, 0, 1, 0. He's been trying to get going without giving himself a chance to find his feet. With toddlers it's called running before they can walk. Nicholls has been around long enough to know better.

Both Nicholls and Mark Chapman were all at sea against England's spinners at the Cake Tin, while de Grandhomme's response to a tight spot was to hit out at man of the match Moeen Ali and get caught at long on. His captain at the time had already seen carnage unfolding from the other end but this just took the biscuit. If it was good enough for established heavy hitter Ben Stokes to knuckle down in a grim situation earlier in the match and graft for 73 balls supporting his captain Eion Morgan the same should have applied to de Grandhomme.

Williamson was the only player in the match to reach 50 on his way to one of his best innings for New Zealand, given the circumstances, an unbeaten 112. That says something about the pitch.

Williamson won't say, of course, but some of the witless actions he saw from the other end must have had him rubbing his eyes in disbelief.

It's simply not good enough. It's all very well repeating the mantra that this team don't get too up or down with each result but maintain an even keel. There are times players need to be told some hard truths.

Remember when New Zealand were knocking seven bells off the West Indies and Pakistan? They won nine ODIs on the bounce too.

Now consider this: Since January 25, New Zealand have now lost eight of their last 10 matches in all forms - the only successes a 12-run T20 win in Wellington on February 13; and a three-wicket ODI victory, also over England in Hamilton on February 25. Nothing even keel about that.


Ross Taylor should return after missing Wellington while recovering from a quad strain. That will give New Zealand back its celebrated 3-4 punch from Williamson and Taylor. New Zealand always look a better lineup with the pair of them there together.

While Taylor has prospered this season, Williamson moved further into the world batting elite by going past 5000 ODI runs. He's the fifth fastest ever to the mark, 119 innings, slower only than South Africa's Hashim Amla (101 innings), West Indian legend Viv Richards (114), Indian captain Virat Kohli (114) and West Indian Brian Lara (118).

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