Australia - New Zealand -England: The pecking order of the tri-series is now confirmed after New Zealand defeated England by 58 runs (7/318 v 8/260) in Perth. In truth the margin should have been greater as the Black Caps eased off in the last hour and were very sloppy in the field. Not that England had been exemplary when they'd fielded: once again we were reminded of the gulf between the fielding standards of the Australian and the other teams.
NZ batted first and made rapid progress against an unfamiliar England opening attack of Chris Tremlett and Liam Plunkett, both of whom bowled promisingly (how often has that word been used or abused this summer?) but inaccurately. Lou Vincent (76/111b) continued his form of the weekend while Ross Taylor (71/81 b) impressed again as did Jacob Oram (54/33b) who for once was able to build on a solid foundation instead of having to repair early damage. Monty Panesar was the best England bowler (10 - 2 -35 -2), slowing the scoring when a huge total looked likely, while Plunkett (9 - 0 -54 -3) suggested that he should have played more earlier in the tour. 318 from 50 overs was a good, almost certainly a winning, total but it was inflated by the self-harm of 37 extras (no byes but 22 wides) and some slack fielding (one excellent stop from Bell was wasted when his return went for four overthrows), not to mention ordinary pace bowling.
A rearranged England batting order, with Andrew Strauss at no 4, gave Ed Joyce (66/ 82b) a chance to display his batting talents once again. Despite some ordinary NZ bowling and slipshod fielding, once Bell (31/ 42b) was second out at 99 nobody was able to stay long enough to produce the late order Oram-style assault which was necessary to accelerate the run rate sufficiently. Paul Nixon and Plunkett came together at 7/184 and rode their luck (as well as making some of their own) until Nixon (49/47b) was well caught in the deep by Oram from the last ball of the game.
England now must defeat Australia at the SCG on Friday to have a chance of making the finals. While there were glimmerings of improvement in some departments today I can't see them lifting enough to produce the upset of the season.